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Efforts to Find Miners Become Desperate

January 4, 2006

TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) _ As the hours dragged on and the rain continued to fall, family and friends of the 13 trapped miners grew somber as they prayed for the miners’ safety.

Although rescue workers inched their way deeper into the mine Tuesday, relatives were told that tests revealed deadly levels of carbon monoxide, and efforts to communicate with the men were not successful.

An evening visit by Gov. Joe Manchin deflated the spirits of relatives gathered at the Sago Baptist Church near the mine.

``He said the odds are against us. It’s not hopeful,″ said John Groves, whose 57-year-old brother, Jerry Grovers, was among the trapped miners.

John Grovers, 43, of Cleveland, W.Va., fought back tears as he described Manchin’s visit. He said families expect to hear their loved ones’ fates when officials next update them later Tuesday night.

``I think everybody knows based on what they told us, what we are looking at,″ he said.

People stood in the cold rain as they waited for news, huddled around fires that were lit on both sides of the train tracks near the mine.

Marlene Nutter, whose friend Terry Helms was in the mine, said loved ones were clinging to faith.

``You can always have hope,″ Nutter said. ``We’re praying for the best.″

Hope, and a miracle, were needed, Manchin said.

``In West Virginia, we believe in the power of prayer, we feel for the families and the families feel it,″ Manchin told MSNBC.

State troopers and yellow police tape kept reporters away Tuesday, more than 30 hours after the miners became trapped 260 feet below the surface of the Sago mine in Upshur County after an explosion.

Every couple of hours, officials would brief friends and family of the miners, hoping they didn’t hear news first from the media.

At the church, several hundred people sang hymns as some played ``Amazing Grace,″ ``Old Rugged Cross,″ and ``I’ll Fly Away″ on the piano, said Barbry Chaapel, the former sister-in-law of trapped miner Jack Weaver.

Ben Hatfield, chief executive officer of mine owner International Coal Group Inc. of Ashland, Ky., comforted them by saying the miners could still be alive in another location.

Families and friends had waited overnight in a muddy field and the church. Some camped out in tents; others sheltered themselves from cold rain with donated blankets.

``It’s hard waiting,″ said Tambra Flint, whose 26-year-old son Randal McCloy was trapped in the mine. Flint stayed at the mine overnight, making her way to the closest entrance and staring into the blackness.

Nick Helms, a golfer who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said his father Terry, was among the trapped miners. The 50-year-old once told him that mine air tests could be deceiving because safer levels could be just a short distance away.

``My father and every person who goes into that mine knows what they’re doing. I’m sure they found a way to stay safe,″ said the son, who hasn’t seen his dad in six months.

``I just want to see him again,″ he said.

___

Associated Press writers Vicki Smith in Tallmansville contributed to this story.

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