WHITESVILLE — Three people who spent more than 100 hours stranded in an underground mine in Raleigh County were found safe Wednesday evening, said Samantha Smith, director of marketing and communications for the West Virginia Department of Commerce.
Rescue squads made contact with Cody Beverly, 21, Kayla Williams, 25, and Erica Treadway, 31, around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and they were brought to the surface by 7:30, Smith said. At 8 p.m., they were being taken for medical treatment.
The three people, along with Eddie Williams, 43, are believed to have trespassed and entered the Elk Run Coal Company’s Rock House Powellton Mine, near Clear Creek, on Saturday evening. According to records with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the underground mine has been inactive for about two years.
Eddie Williams found his way out of the mine around midnight on Monday, said Raleigh County Sheriff Scott Van Meter.
Officials said Williams cooperated to help rescuers from the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training and Alpha Natural Resources — Elk Run Coal Company’s parent company — locate his friends.
As the search continued for the three on Wednesday, family and community members gathered in the nearby Salamy Memorial Center, praying for the safe return of their loved ones.
Ross Williams, a former coal miner and stepfather of Beverly, said Eddie Williams was an experienced coal miner. The other three, including his stepson, had never been underground in their lives, he said.
“I know how they’re feeling under there, how dark it is, how scared they must be,” Ross Williams said Wednesday afternoon, before news had broke of their safety.
“That’s what I can’t stop thinking about,” said Marsha Williams, a relative of Kayla Williams.
“It’s dangerous, there’s no light, and it’s pitch black,” Ross Williams said, holding his hand a half an inch in front of his nose. “That’s how far they can see — nothing at all.”
Capt. Holli Nelson, public affairs officer for the West Virginia National Guard, said 10 guardsmen were on site Wednesday with three Humvees, providing rides to and from the mine entrances for rescuers.
On Sunday, officials launched the first rescue efforts into the mine. Numerous other attempts occurred in the days that followed.
Ross Williams said his family got a call about the situation on Sunday, and there’s been little time for them to rest since.
“We walked to the top of the mountain as soon as we got the news, everyone did,” Ross Williams said. “We wanted to help, we wanted to do something.”
The hardest part, Ross Williams said, was the waiting.
“They [Beverly, Treadway and Kayla Williams] were in the wrong for what they did, but their lives are still worth something,” Ross Williams said.
Family members in the memorial center were joined by their neighbors, most from Artie, as they waited for any updates on Wednesday. Most were praying for miracles.
“Three miracles,” said Marsha Williams. “That’s all we pray for today.”
Ross Williams nodded solemnly.
“We’re just praying for them to be alive, for them to come home, for a reunion here, not anywhere else,” he said.