More equipment en route to help recover miners

Published 9:39 am Monday, June 6, 2016

CRYSTAL SPRINGS  (AP) — Officials trying to recover the bodies of two miners following a Friday landslide at a central Mississippi gravel pit say heavy duty pumps are expected to arrive later today to help in that effort.

Emmitt Shorter and James “Dee” Hemphill were operating a track hoe and a dump truck at Green Brothers Gravel Company near Crystal Springs when a quicksand-like slurry engulfed their vehicles.

Officials believe the men to be dead.

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Supervised by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, workers tried to remove the vehicles Saturday and Sunday with a crane but were unable to dislodge them. Heavier pumps that can remove mud and slurry were being escorted to the site Monday by state troopers.

MSHA manager William O’Dell says officials are focused on recovering the bodies and will investigate the cause of the incident later.

In a Facebook message, state Emergency Management Director Lee Smithson named the men and offered condolences to their families. Family members earlier identified them to local reporters.

Smithson says the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency responded quickly Friday, but didn’t have legal authority to take over because the slide happened on private property and because mining accidents are the responsibility of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Smithson says the state doesn’t own equipment needed to respond, but says officials “did everything we could.” Smithson pledges an investigation of the incident and recovery operations.