Their faces covered in black soot, three adults safely rescued after several days in an inactive coal mine in the US state of West Virginia were mobbed by loved ones in a teary reunion, then they thanked the crews that got them out, News.com.AU reports.
The three walked out of an ambulance at a fire hall in Whitesville to the screams of relatives for a brief reunion on Wednesday night (Thursday NZ Time) before being taken to a hospital.
Cody Beverly told news outlets the four-day experience inside Elk Run Coal’s Rock House Powellton mine near Clear Creek “was terrible.”
“I’m with my family now. I’m fine,” he said.
Beverly later told NBC News: “Anybody who was involved in searching for us, I just want to thank you with everything inside of me,” he said. “This is the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in my life. This is a life-changing experience for me.”
“We appreciate every one of you guys,” said Kayla Williams, who also was among those rescued.
Williams’ father, Randall Williams, said she had gone into the mine in search of copper.
People in the region do “whatever they can do to make money if they ain’t got a job,” Randall Williams told CBS News .
Raleigh County Prosecutor Kristen Keller said the sheriff’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into the latest incident.
Raleigh County Sheriff Scott Van Meter said on Thursday the criminal investigation will focus on why the adults were in the mine and find out “what happened”.
Van Meter hadn’t said people trying to steal copper from West Virginia mines is “nothing new”.
“It is a disturbing trend with people entering abandoned mines to steal copper wiring,” said Boone County Chief Deputy Chad Barker. “I can’t stress how dangerous this idea is and it’s only a matter of time before we get a less desirable ending.”
Abandoned coal mines contain toxic levels of gas, collapsing roofs, flooding, and other dangers may exist.
The sheriff’s office had identified those rescued Wednesday as Beverly, 21; Kayla Williams, 25; and Erica Treadway, 31. They had been missing since Saturday.
Williams’ aunt, Sandra Scarbro of Clear Creek, told The Register-Herald, “We got our Christmas miracle. All we really know is she’s alive, and we’re so thankful that she’s out and that they’re all out. We appreciate everybody in the community, the governor and rescuers, everything everybody has done.”