UPDATE: Two men buried in collapse at a Copiah county gravel pit

CRYSTAL SPRINGS, MISS– Recovery efforts are still being conducted at Green Brothers Gravel Pit in Crystal Springs, according to county emergency management officials. 

UPDATE: Copiah County has issued a statement that Green Brothers Gravel Company has begun pumping water out of the pit where two miners were trapped on Friday.

Officials are now waiting for pumps and a long reach excavator from Alabama to assist in the recovery. A Mississippi River area team that specializes in these cases has been called in to assist with the effort.

Assisting with the recovery operation is the Mississippi Emergency Management agency and Copiah County Emergency Management.

Prior attempts to pull the missing miners from the pit did not worked, according to Ray Coleman of MEMA.

“Additional equipment will be brought in to work in conjunction with the equipment here. The efforts will continue tomorrow at 6am.”

News Mississippi will continue to follow this story for you. 

UPDATE: The Mine Safety and Health Administration has released a timeline of the events from the moment the pit collapsed to now.

On June 3, 2016, at approximately 1 p.m. EDT, the Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified that a slide of sand and slurry occurred at the Green Brothers Gravel Company Inc.’s Harmony Mine and Mill in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, entrapping two miners. The miners had been operating an excavator and dump truck when they became engulfed by the material. MSHA immediately dispatched agency officials to the site, including emergency responders. The agency is coordinating efforts with the company and state and local authorities.

The Copiah County Sheriff’s Office was first on the scene and began efforts to retrieve the two miners from the material. However, they were forced to halt rescue efforts due to additional slides from the rain-soaked material. A crane has been brought in to aid in the efforts to extract the fallen material.

 

Saturday, June 4

Recovery operations continued until 11:30 pm CDT Friday night and resumed at 6 am today. Workers continue to construct a road to allow the crane to reach the recovery site and hopefully locate the missing miners. MSHA family liaisons are currently on site with family members.

 

Sunday, June 5

Recovery operations resumed at 9 am. CDT. Approximately 25 men are working at the site. Mine employees have been used to build the road for crane access.  A construction crew is conducting the crane operations/setup/hookup. Equipment includes a 230-ton crane, a CAT 336 excavator, an air compressor and haulage trucks.

 

Crews have been unsuccessful lifting the excavator. The crane will attempt to lift the haulage unit (a CAT articulated truck 730C). This is a lighter unit and closer to the crane. The company has been given the go-ahead to bring in pumps to remove water and waste.

UPDATE: Green Brothers Gravel Pit is leading the recovery effort, supported by the oversight of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“At the moment, we don’t have a timeline,” said Ray Coleman of MEMA. “That would come from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, but they are not releasing that information at this time.”

Coleman stressed that the concern of Green Brothers is to recover the two workers without endangering those around them. The MSHA is providing support to those on the ground. News Mississippi will follow up with more details as they emerge.

Families of the workers say 24 year old Emmitt Shorter and James “Dee” Hemphill are the two that were buried in the pit.

UPDATE: The crane has arrived and the process is starting for the crane to lift the buried equipment out of the pit. Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Public Information officer Ray Coleman told News Mississippi that even though progress has been made, there is no timeline.

“The ground is damp,” said Coleman. “We’re having to take into consideration the safety of the workers, the staff, and the onlookers, as there are a few many of those. A road has been made, and pallets have been put down to keep the crane from sinking. This is something none of these responders have seen before, so they’re having to assess it the best they can.”

Rain is forecasted for the area, but Coleman said the crews, once a safe process has been established, will continue to work through the rain to retrieve the workers buried in the pit.

 

Copiah County Emergency Management Director Randle Drane told News Mississippi that retrieving the two workers has been a harsh process.

“We know where the equipment is,” said Drane. “Now we’ve got the road built, and the pad down to get the crane in there to lift the equipment out.”

Two workers were buried inside their equipment underneath 10 to 12 feet of sludge, mud, and sluice at the gravel pit.

“It was a dam that was holding a mud pit,” said Drane. “and unfortunately it just gave way, and they were buried. Knowledge is they were inside the equipment.”

The mud pit was created to hold the sludgy byproduct of the surface mining done at Green Brothers.

“They separate the sand from the rock,” Drane added. “The mud was set aside from that.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the Mine Safety and Health Administration are investigating the collapse of that dam. Mississippi Emergency Management, Salvation Army, volunteer firefighters, all Green Brothers employees, and county emergency officials are assisting in the recovery. Many heavy equipment operators have come forward to assist, but Drane said that while appreciated, volunteers for the purpose of digging cannot be used at this time.

“This is not an operation for volunteers,” said Drane. “This is for the contractors and those hired and trained for work of this nature.”