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McElroy Team Involved In Mine Rescue Efforts

By Staff | Apr 7, 2010

A mine rescue team from Consol Energy Inc.’s McElroy Mine is one of several assisting in efforts to rescue coal miners trapped underground by an explosion that killed at least 25 in southern West Virginia on Monday.

Consol sent three rescue teams, including one consisting of about a dozen members from McElroy Mine in Marshall County, to Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, about 30 miles south of Charleston.

According to Consol spokesman Joseph Cerenzia, the other teams hail from Buchanan Mine near Grundy, Va., and from Blacksville No. 2 Mine near Wana, W.Va.

“Our teams are very well trained and very well equipped,” Cerenzia said. “They train year-round for this type of thing.”

He noted the local team will be part of rescue efforts on an as-needed basis. He said teams at disaster scenes usually remain on standby when not inside the mine, waiting to relieve other teams.

“They act in concert with one another,” he said, noting the company that owns the mine where a rescue operation is being performed usually sets up a command post to direct and coordinate the various teams’ activities. “They will be called in as needed. And that might mean just about anything.”

Cerenzia said the first teams to enter an underground mine after an event such as an explosion evaluate the situation and test for gas to determine how safe the environment is inside.Next, teams are sent to try and locate any missing miners. He said records and daily work plans are reviewed to help determine where any trapped workers are likely to be. Team members also are prepared to provide medical assistance on site if needed.

“During the first hours, it’s always a rescue mission,” Cerenzia added. “Anyone that’s alive, they try to get them out. They go in with the intention of performing rescue efforts.”

Cerenzia acknowledged that little information was available late Monday and that it was difficult to predict whether the trapped coal miners would be found alive.

“Events like this have a life of their own,” he said, noting the situation could change quickly or evolve over many hours or even days.

The McElroy mine rescue team is among the best in the nation. In February, it was announced that a team from McElroy had taken second place in the 2009 National Mine Rescue Contest, a competition held every two years and designed to keep team members’ skills sharp. The McElroy team took top honors on the first day of the two-day competition and finished second in the nation overall.

A mine rescue team from McElroy also took part in rescue efforts at International Coal Group’s Sago Mine near Buckhannon, W.Va., where a Jan. 2, 2006, explosion killed one worker and trapped 12 additional miners for about two days. Only one of those trapped, Randall McCloy, survived.