By AMY GAREIS
News-Herald Staff Writer
HOPEDALE- Two miners are safe after the roof collapsed in an underground mine near Hopedale early Thursday.
Two men identified as Jacob Harris and Gary Dulkoski were reunited with their families after appearing above ground around 7 p.m. Officials said the men were working about 440 feet underground and about 3.5 miles from the portal when the unstable roof gave way around 9:30 a.m. They were not injured, but it took fellow miners ten hours to remove the debris and stabilize the area so the trapped workers could get out safely.
Although company officials did not identify the workers, the News-Herald confirmed them to be Harris, a 23-year-old Unionport man who worked at the site for nearly two years, and Dulkoski, of Tuscarawas County, who had nearly three decades of mining experience but worked at the Hopedale mine for several years. This newspaper managed to obtain a brief interview with Harris, who said the collapse occurred about 10-15 away from where he stood.
“We were bolting on the intersection when [it] caved in,” he said. “We had air, but we knew they had to get us out eventually.”
Dulkowski later told reporters that it was harrowing but he had faith in his co-workers. “I was shaking a little bit,” he said. “We couldn’t wait for them to rescue us. We had a great crew to get us out.”
Officials gave a brief statement shortly after the men returned to the surface. General Manager Bruce Hann was joined by Craig Corder, mine safety manager for the Ohio Department of Mineral Resources Management, and Carlos Mosby, assistant district director of MSHA, when he spoke with reporters. Hann said the incident occurred in the north section of the mine and cited “adverse geology” for the collapse.
“The two miners were roof bolting nearby when [it] fell and it trapped them,” Hann said. “We excavated material until approximately 3:30 p.m., at which time we proceeded to support the roof and safely evacuate them. They just came out of the mine and they are both fine and in good shape. Nobody was hurt.”
Hann continued that other miners in that area used equipment to remove the rock and cleared the passageway but spent the remainder of the time securing the roof to allow the trapped miners through to safety. A federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector was underground within an hour of the incident while the state Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining arrived from Cadiz, but local safety forces were not called in to assist. Hann said everything went as planned and now an investigation is under way into what exactly caused the collapse.
“It appears to be a fault in the roof, adverse geology. Although you don’t encounter it every day, it’s not that uncommon to find.”
That section of the mine was temporarily idled while the rescue work ensued. Hann said the mine operated in the 1950s but was closed for a period of time and reopened in 2005. He noted it was the first time such an incident has occurred there.