17 miners rescued from Central NY salt mine

LANSING, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Seventeen miners are safe after being trapped in a salt mine for nearly ten hours.

A 911 call came in to the Tompkins County 911 dispatch around 11:40 p.m. Wednesday. Seventeen miners were trapped nearly 900 feet underground on an elevator.

The group was going down into the Cargill Salt Mine for the start of their shift when something went wrong. Another crew had come up the shaft just minutes before with no sign of a problem.

“It came up through the area literally five to ten minutes before this crew went down,” mine manager Shawn Wilczynski said.

Wilczynski said the miners had food with them, and they weren’t in any danger. But rescue crews from across the area were on scene in minutes to help with the rescue.

The rescue began with lowering down supplies such as blankets and heat pads while waiting for a crane from Auburn to arrive and start pulling the miners out.

The first group was rescued to the surface just after 7 a.m.

“I’m inspired by them to be quite honest with you,” Wilczynski said. “The first four that came out of the mine waited until the last two that came out of the mine.”

The rescue efforts continued throughout the morning until the final two miners were safe around 8:30 a.m.

Wilczynski said the miners kept in good spirits and were in good health albeit a little cold. The trapped miners ranged in age from 20 to 60. One of them has more than 40 years of experience.

The cause is still being investigated, but Wilczynski said he thinks it could have been a mechanical issue with the steel beams that guide the elevator down the shaft.

Governor Andrew Cuomo released the following statement:

“Earlier this morning, 17 miners became trapped in an underground mine car at the Cargill Salt Mines in Tompkins County, New York. Following a coordinated rescue effort that spanned multiple hours and involved emergency personnel from throughout the region, all 17 individuals have been rescued and are in good health.

“I have directed a team of inspectors from the Office of Emergency Management, Office of Fire Protection, and the Department of Labor’s Division of Safety and Health to the site to do a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding last night’s incident. The health and safety of New York’s workforce is paramount and every step will be taken to ensure this incident is not repeated in the future, and anyone potentially at fault is held accountable.

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to thank the dedicated first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to ensure the safe return of these miners. This is the perfect example of New Yorkers coming together in times of need, and I am grateful for the efforts of all those involved in this operation.”

All operations at the mine will be put on hold.

“We will not go back to work until all of our infrastructure is back in pure 100 percent safe operating conditions,” Wilczynski said.

The mine at Cargill is the deepest one in the Western Hemisphere measuring at 2,300 ft. feet deep.

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