Worker presumed dead as rescue mission ceases following Kentucky coal mine explosion – Courier JournalCMS
Ben Tobin, Louisville Courier Journal Published 1:42 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2019 | Updated 8:40 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2019
Recovery efforts at a mine in Muhlenberg County have been called off as a worker was presumed dead after falling down an elevator shaft due to a methane gas explosion.
Richard L. Knapp, a 62-year-old welder/iron worker of Fricke Management & Contracting, was constructing a form last week that was to be used to fill a mine shaft with concrete. This was part of an effort to close Paradise Mine in Central City, which had been idled for a couple of months, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.
The explosion, which occurred about 5:30 p.m on Wednesday, caused Knapp to fall down the 380-foot shaft, which has water at the bottom, cabinet spokesman John Mura previously told the Courier Journal.
The cabinet, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and KenAmerican Resources, the owner of Paradise Mine, were on-site to assist with the recovery process. Once the methane gas level dissipated enough, crews sent down a camera, which caught no sight of Knapp at the water-filled bottom.
According to Mura, KenAmerican Resources made the decision to halt further recovery attempts to avoid putting any rescue workers in jeopardy who would have to be lowered down the elevator shaft to search for Knapp’s body.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic accident at the Paradise Mine in Muhlenberg County,” Gov. Matt Bevin said in a statement. “Our dedicated coal miners and mine workers do so much every day to keep our communities running strong. As Kentuckians, we want to offer our prayers and support to Mr. Knapp’s family, friends and co-workers during this very difficult time.”
Mura said the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the cabinet’s mine safety division will conduct separate investigations into the incident, which could take more than a month to complete.
“We will look into every facet of what happened, including what caused the accident and what the circumstances were around the work being performed,” Mura said.
“The decision by the company to suspend recovery efforts was undoubtedly a difficult one, but necessary to ensure the safety of the miners still working at the site. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Mr. Knapp’s family, and we want to assure them that MSHA will conduct a thorough investigation into this tragedy,” a spokesperson for the Mine Safety and Health Administration wrote in an email.
KenAmerican Resources and Fricke Management & Contracting, in Murphysboro, Illinois, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
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