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Three Killed in Mine Rescue Efforts; More Information on the Seismic Activity That Caused the Mine Collapse

Aired August 17, 2007 - 13:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Disaster followed by tragedy. We're standing by for a live update from Utah on the search from those trapped miners. The community mourns the loss of three rescuers.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And he helped kill the dogs. Those words from two men accused in a dog fighting operation, along with football star Michael Vick. Right now, we're waiting to hear if the Atlanta quarterback will accept a plea deal, even if it means prison time.

Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kyra Phillips here at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

First up, we want to get you to a scene that you're all too familiar with, the command center for the miners, the missing miners. This is in Emery County, Utah.

The owner of the mine, as well as the governor, Jon Huntsman, the governor of Utah, expected to hold a press conference shortly to update us on the situation concerning those six missing miners and also new developments overnight. Three men killed during the rescue efforts in Emery County, Utah.

It is day 12 of this long ordeal for the miners, as well as a country who has been following this story. We'll continue to update you and get you live to this news conference just as soon as it starts -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Also preparing for what could be a big one. We're talking about Hurricane Dean, and we're monitoring the developments out of Harris County Texas, where there you're seeing a press conference under way, as they talk about preparedness and making sure everyone is doing the right thing to prepare themselves for this potential oncoming Hurricane Dean.

LEMON: And Fredricka, as we wait for that, let's get back to the mining situation. Here's what we know at this hour.

The latest tragedy at the Crandall Canyon mine halts efforts to tunnel their way to six trapped miners. But workers continue to drill a hole into the mountain from above.

Overnight, an underground event of some kind caused a collapse that killed three rescue workers. Now as for the six miners trapped below ground nearly two weeks -- for nearly two weeks now, there's been no sign that they are still alive.

Let's get straight to the scene now in Huntington, Utah, and CNN's Brian Todd.

What do you have for us, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we're just moments away from getting some crucial new information in the case. We know that the drilling operation -- we're told, at least, that the drilling operation into the top of the mountain is continuing. We'll hope to get an update on that in a moment.

LEMON: Brian, I hate to cut you off. The governor is stepping up to the mic. OK.

GOV. JON HUNTSMAN JR., UTAH: ... to say during a time of difficulty, pain, and tragedy, such that our state is experiencing right now. Suffice it to say, yesterday we went from a tragedy to a catastrophe. The best thing that all of could say at this point is to express love and sympathy and condolences to the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives last night in a rescue attempt.

As I mentioned to a group earlier today, these men died as heroes. I can think of no better way to express your love for a fellow human being than to risk your life for someone else's, as we saw last night.

And as I mentioned to the families right down this road, of the six miners trapped, the best way that we can honor their lives is to stay strong and to stay focused and to stay unified. Not only them as families, but we as a state, as we continue what is a rescue operation.

I want you to know that, in recognition of our three heroes, rescuers last night, I have ordered that our flags be lowered to half staff in this state, in recognition of those fallen victims.

I also want to mention that we will do everything possible in this state, when the investigation is undertaken, to be a partner with MSHA. We have questions, too. And we want answers to those questions.

And we want to make sure that the lives that were lost last night were not in vain, that as a result of what we learned from this week and a half of pain, that we become better and smarter and safer, not only here in the state of Utah, but, indeed, throughout the entire United States, with the focus first and foremost on worker safety. That must drive everything else.

Let me just tell you finally that I have been absolutely inspired and humbled by the solidarity, the strength and the resiliency of the families who have been anxiously awaiting news on their loved ones. They are an inspiration for all in this state and all who have been following this situation. I know that Richard will get into an update on the investigation, but on behalf of all Utahans, let me just say that, whatever happens as we move forward with this rescue operation, let us insure that we have no more injuries. We have suffered enough as a state.

Whatever is done above or below, and I don't know that much will be done below until we can guarantee worker safety, that safety be of paramount concern and importance as we go forward.

As governor of this state, that's all I ask. This is in the hands of the experts and the professionals, and those who under statute are tasked with this kind of responsibility.

But I also know that our state has suffered and that today we grieve. And nobody is going to rest until we bring this to some sort of conclusion, not leaving any stone unturned or resource untapped in pursuit of that objective.

Thank you -- Richard.

RICHARD STICKLER, MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION: Good morning. My name is Richard Stickler. I oversee the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

We wanted to be here this morning to give you a report on what we know about the tragic accident that occurred yesterday evening, approximately 6:30 p.m. and also give you a status update on this rescue operation.

The accident that occurred underground yesterday evening was a result of seismic activity, a mountain bump, that dislodged approximately 30 feet of the right rib of the wall underground, and that wall was blast across the entry, striking the nine miners that were injured. The force of that blast completely destroyed the ground support that we had put in place, that we believed would provide protection for those rescue workers.

We had three miners fatally injured. Six other miners were taken to the hospital. As of this morning, the latest information I have is that three miners continue to be hospitalized.

Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration had two of our personnel injured in this accident. One was fatally injured, and the second was seriously injured.

Our prayers are with the miners, their families, and on behalf of all of the MSHA employees, we give our deepest condolences to the families of these miners.

Now, we have suspended indefinitely the underground portion of this rescue effort. We had put in the strongest ground support system to try to protect the rescue workers that is available and practical to use.

We had reached out to ground control experts at West Virginia University, NIOSH, National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, and other experts to review the plan that we were using. We all agreed, and there was consensus, that the plan that we were -- had developed and implemented provided the maximum safety for the workers that we knew to be available. Obviously, it was not adequate.

Most ground support systems are designed to support vertical loads. What we're faced here with is horizontal loads that are created by the vertical loads.

Where the crew was working underground in the rescue area, we were under the deepest cover of over 2,000 feet. And we were just starting into the deepest part of the cover and probably had another 500 feet to penetrate to get through the deepest part of the cover.

But with over 2,000 feet of overburdened or surface area forcing weight down onto the coal seam, that vertical load creates forces that are horizontal within the pillars. And when that energy gets released, it's like an explosion.

And last night the right rib exploded off of the coal pillar, with tremendous force, removed -- it knocked out all of the ground support we had in place. The water jacks that you've seen the pictures of. The chain-link fence, the wire ropes, completely propelled all of that ground support over to the opposite rib.

And, unfortunately, we had nine men, miners, right in that area. It occurred about 45 to 50 feet out by the working face. The miner was sitting at the face, and these crews had just completed advancing the ground control support system and was just finalizing that effort when the seismic activity occurred and caused the mountain bump.

We are going to assemble a team of ground control experts. We're currently making phone calls to get some of them on site here. We have been in constant communication with some of these individuals throughout the course of this rescue activity. But we think that at this point in time, it's time that we bring some of them on site here, where we can sit down, face to face, and ask ourselves is there any possible way that we can continue this underground operation and provide the safety for the rescue workers?

At this point, we don't have an answer to that question, but we will be moving forward, and that answer will guide future decisions of if and when we would resume any type of effort to try to reach these trapped miners under ground.

Now, in the meantime, we continue the surface part of the rescue operation. As you know, No. 4 bore hole is well underway. It's down over 600 feet. We hope to find miners alive when that bore hole drills into the mine. If we can find miners alive, we can keep them alive by lowering water and food through the bore hole.

If we can find miners alive, then we'll start drilling a bore hole that would be large enough to put a capsule into the mine and bring the miners out through a capsule. So that work continues.

As far as air readings and other activities at the bore holes, it's pretty much the same as I had reported to you at the last meeting. We're continuing to pump in air at number two and three bore hole, approximately 5,000 cubic feet of air at each of those two bore holes and we continue to monitor the atmosphere in the mine at the No. 1 bore hole.

So that's what I can tell you about what I know that caused the tragic accident last night. I will tell you that there was a heroic effort here last night with the other miners underground, the company employees, the MSHA employees, to recover the nine miners that were injured.

Some of these miners were buried under the coal that was blown off of the right rib. They had to be dug out from under buried coal. But everyone put forth a tremendous effort to get these miners out of the mine and transported to a medical facility as soon as possible.

With that, I'm going to turn it over to Rob Moore, who will give additional information. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They weren't all nine miners, some were MSHA inspectors, right?

STICKLER: As I said earlier, two of the nine miners are MSHA employees. One of the fatalities was an MSHA employee. One of the miners that continues to be hospitalized was an MSHA employee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was cost a factor in not putting the access (UNINTELLIGIBLE) through the boring hole (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the operation of the mine?

STICKLER: Let's go ahead with the rest of the briefing here.

ROB MOORE, VP, MURRAY ENERGY: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Rob Moore, vice president of Murray Energy Corporation, the parent company of Utah American Energy Inc.

Mr. Stickler has given you a very complete update. I'll add what I can to that update.

As you know, a seismic event occurred at approximately 6:35 last night at the Crandall Canyon mine. On notification of the event and the possibility of injured workers, Utah American Energy personnel, including Mr. Murray and MSHA personnel, immediately entered the mine in an attempt to rescue the injured workers.

Mr. Murray has always shown sincere concern for his employees and their well being.


MOORE: Please don't interrupt. Thank you. I want to assure everyone that not one second was spared in getting to the injured workers.

Utah American Energy personnel, including Mr. Murray and MSHA personnel, reacted immediately. Because of Mr. Murray's involvement with the rescue efforts, I'm certain you can understand that he wanted to be here. I'm also certain you can understand the reasons why he could not be here this morning.

Utah American Energy and Murray Energy personnel express our thoughts, our prayers, and deepest sympathies to all the families affected by this tragedy.

Without question, we have suffered a setback, and we have incurred an incredible loss. But this team remains focused on the task at hand, and that's the rescue of the miners that have been trapped since August 6. And we will remain focused on that effort.

Those that were injured in last night's event were heroes and are heroes. They made the ultimate sacrifice -- sacrifice in their efforts to reach these trapped miners, people that they know, people that they love. And we will move forward with that effort as they were moving forward with that effort.

We'll take questions at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Mr. Murray among the injured?

MOORE: No, he is not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was cost a factor in not providing the mine workers with beacons or locating devices so that they could be located and determine whether or not they are, in fact, surviving the initial collapse?

MOORE: Cost is never a factor when you are...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why weren't they equipped with those beacons?

MOORE: ... when are you taking into the consideration the safety of employees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why weren't the vertical holes not bored and access roads put in place prior to the operation of the mine? We're waiting three days to bore a single hole. Those roads should have been in place, should they not, prior to the operation of the mine in order to facilitate a quicker response?

MOORE: It would be impossible to place those roads and those holes when you don't know the location of the employees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'm sorry. I don't know if I heard this, but are you ruling out the digging underground or not? And when might it resume?

STICKLER: We have suspended the underground portion of the rescue operation. As I mentioned, we're assembling a team of ground control experts to see if there's any possible plan that could be developed to continue the underground operation. And once we have that information, we will make a decision on what we would do going forward. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Stickler, in the human sized bore hole, how long would that take? Did you say 22 days a week ago, that it would take quite a while to dig that hole?

STICKLER: You're right it will take quite a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean?

STICKLER: It took 70 -- a little over 70 hours at Quecreek to go 300 feet. And we're looking at -- at this area, we're roughly 1,500 feet where we're putting No. 4 bore hole in, so you can do the math -- the math on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Stickler, did you find...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) What would be the force of a 3.9 magnitude?

STICKLER: I have no way of describing or giving you specific numbers on the force in terms of PSI or any other measurable unit. I can only tell you that it's a -- it's a force that will move mining equipment. It's a force that we've had long wall sheering machines on a long wall face. These machines weigh 40 tons. They've been broken in half by some of this seismic activity in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Stickler, when the -- when the rescue team was injured, can you give a little more detail of what happened to get them out? Who went in, and how did they get them out and so on, please?

STICKLER: Well, there were other workers underground, including employees of the company, workers and supervisors and federal Mine Safety and Health Administration employees. They all responded to the work site at the face area.

Additional employees that were outside, including both company and MSHA employees, went into the mine to assist with that recovery and rescue of those nine injured miners.


STICKLER: Some of the miners were buried, and we had to remove two or three feet of material to get them out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is he alone? Is he with people? What's he doing?

MOORE: Mr. Murray is still on the site where he will remain, just as he told you he would remain.

That will -- that will conclude the press conference for today.


LEMON: OK. That was a press conference happening there. Really, you can just feel the frustration, Fredricka, in -- in the voices of the rescuers and the officials there on the ground.

But several important things coming out of this situation happening in Utah. We're hearing, sadly, that those folks who were involved in what they call that seismic event last night, that's what they are calling it. Some of them were buried under coal.

And we are hearing now three have been killed, six are injured, three of them still in the hospital. Two of those injured, part of the federal Mine Safety Administration. One of them killed, I should say. And another one who is seriously injured. Both members of that team.

The governor now stressing safety with all of this. And it's just really a tragic situation. But, again, it's still going to take a while to get under this.

And here's the question that everyone is facing. And I think the governor and all of the folks raised it: can we continue in a safe way with these rescue operations?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Well, the governor's thoughts underscored by him saying simply, you know, it was already a tragedy. Now we've gone from tragedy to catastrophe with three additional lives that have been perished as a result of the rescue to still to try get to these six trapped miners, which, again, we still don't know the disposition of them.

LEMON: Yes. Yes, and we're going to talk to him in the NEWSROOM, the governor of Utah...


LEMON: ... in just a little bit.

Don Lemon here with Fredricka Whitfield. NEWSROOM continues in a minute.


WHITFIELD: We just heard, moments before the break, that that rescue effort in Utah has now been indefinitely suspended, at least the underground operations, as a result of three rescuers dying this morning, two of which did -- or I should say one of which actually worked for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

We're still trying to learn more about the other nine miners in all who have been injured, three of whom still are being hospitalized.

We heard from the governor earlier. He said this whole situation has gone from tragedy to catastrophe now. We're going to be hearing from the governor, Governor Jon Huntsman, in a moment.

LEMON: And Fredricka, of the six rescuers who survived this latest underground disaster, three are still in the hospital.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom is in Price, Utah, at the hospital closest to the mine entrance.

What do you have for us, Kara?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a little bit of encouraging news in the midst of what really has been a horrific time for this small mining community. Now, they're not only dealing with the unknown fate of these six missing finers (ph) -- miners, but they're also grieving the deaths of three of these rescue workers.

We have been able to learn a little bit more information about the six other rescue workers who were injured overnight.

Three of them have been treated and released from area hospitals. They suffered what we are told are crush injuries, things like abrasions and bruises.

Now the other three, we have been told one is in stable condition with some back injuries. We're told that he is mostly experiencing some pain, but he is expected to be OK, and, as a matter of fact, he's expected to be released within two to three days.

The second is suffering from some non-life-threatening injuries. We weren't able to get any more details about that.

But the third and the most seriously injured is said to be in serious condition, needing some surgery to repair some facial fractures, we're told, and some traumatic head and leg injuries.

Now, we are coming to you from the closest hospital to that mine. We're in the city of Price, and it was here that the ambulances rushed a lot of these miners late last night.

This was also a scene of a lot of fear and confusion. Many of these mining families coming here, because they didn't know who was injured and what the extent of those injuries were. Tried just to get some information, because they were so worried about their loved ones.

We now know that everyone has been accounted for and that, again, it was a total of nine rescuers that were injured, three of them fatally last night.

LEMON: CNN's Kara Finnstrom joining us from Price, Utah. Thank you for that report, Kara.

And if you're looking for a way to make a difference for the miners' families, you can. Impact your world by logging on to to learn how you can become part of the solution. We posted information about the Crandall Canyon Family Support Fund, Impacting Your World, now just a click away at

WHITFIELD: Something else a lot of folks in this country are looking at, the markets. It looked like investors would be in for another sharp fall at the open. And then, the Feds came in to the rescue with a dramatic surprise cut in a key interest rate.

Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with more on that -- Susan.


WHITFIELD: Well you know, speaking of mortgages, Susan, we're going to be talking a little bit more because a lot of folks, whether they are in the market to buy a new home, or perhaps they just want to hold on to what they've got, with all these other lenders going out of business, people have questions. So, our Gerri Willis will be joining us to talk a little bit more about the housing market and the whole mortgage mess.

All right, well, let's talk about another sort of mess, involving an NFL quarterback. Michael Vick is on his own today. Vick's remaining co-defendants both pleaded guilty in federal court in the dogfighting case that has jeopardized Vick's career. Vick's time is running out to either plead guilty and face prison time or to risk a trial by jury.

Here with the very latest, CNN's Rusty Dornin. Still no sign of Vick.


WHITFIELD: How about his attorneys? Do we know whether or not they're even in that building?

DORNIN: No, they're not, as far as we know, they're not in the building, but Michael Vick is, basically all by himself. His former friends, of course, have basically hung him out to dry. Quanis Phillips (ph) and Purcell Peace (ph), of course pleading guilty and claiming that, indeed, Michael Vick, with them, executed eight dogs just this past April. And also, maybe more importantly right now, they say that he provided the money for the gambling operation.

Now, that's very important, because what they're talking ...

WHITFIELD: That's a big deal.

DORNIN: ...what they're talking about next week is the possibility of a grand jury coming up with what they call a superceding indictment, which would involve racketeering charges. Racketeering charges could bring up to 20 years in prison.


DORNIN: And even besides that, obviously, if he's convicted of that, he would also have a lifetime ban from the NFL if you're convicted on gambling charges.

WHITFIELD: Right, zero tolerance on gambling within the NFL.

DORNIN: That's right.

WHITFIELD: All right, so, meantime, we have seen at least in the first court appearance, there were folks outside, outraged. There were also a lot of folks who were in support of Michael Vick. This time ...

DORNIN: More protesters this time, from PETA and that sort of thing. Also, the Humane Society and actually, John Goodwin from the Humane Society was the only one really to come outside the courtroom and talk to reporters.

Let's listen to what he had to say.


JOHN GOODWIN, HUMANE SOCIETY: These two gentlemen admitted that the facts that were in the 18-page indictment were correct and truthful. And let's remember what some of those facts were. Executing dogs because they didn't fight well enough, by electrocution, drowning, hanging, having dog fights for up to $23,000. And so, it is really impressive and shows the professional nature of this U.S. attorney's office that they could so quickly bring this case forward and so quickly get some guilty pleas.


DORNIN: They don't have that guilty plea yet from Michael Vick ...


DORNIN: ...and they were -- supposedly, the government has offered him a deal that would involve up to at least one year in prison. So ...


DORNIN: word yet on whether he's going to take it. There was a lot of talk about there being a deadline this morning, but really, you know, from what we understand from the U.S. attorney's office, there's no real hard and fast deadline. But obviously, the grand jury is coming up and possibly could come up with more charges. So, he better do something quick.

WHITFIELD: Oh, interesting, all right, yes, because I think most folks thought the deadline had to be the end of the business day today with grand jury possibly seeing it Monday. But, it just could be some time next week.

DORNIN: Right.

WHITFIELD: We don't really know.

DORNIN: Right.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much for keeping us posted. Rusty, we appreciate it.

LEMON: Well, coal miners call them bumps, but that word hardly lives up to the potential danger of these events. We'll get more on the science of all of this, coming up next in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


GOV. JON HUNTSMAN, UTAH: This is in the hands of the experts and the professionals and those who, under statute, are tasked with this kind of responsibility. But I also know that our state has suffered. And that today, we grieve. And nobody is going to rest until we bring this to some sort of conclusion.


LEMON: Now, the search, the tunnel work, the underground portion of the rescue mission, called off indefinitely. Now, that's at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. Six men are somewhere deep underground and they've been there for 11, 12 days, really.

Now here's why the underground search is suspended. An attempt to reach the miners ended in tragedy last night. Another cave-in. Here's -- let's go in and show you this here. That's the mine entrance and then somewhere, 1,500 to 1,700 feet inside of here, they believe the miners are trapped inside of this mine.

We're going to talk to a guest about this little bit later on, in just a second. But let's continue on here. That's where those six miners are believed to be trapped.

Now, mining officials believe some sort of seismic movement collapsed support structures inside the tunnels. That's according to them. Nobody disputes that working deep underground is one of the riskiest pursuits in the world, and that miners -- well, they're the feelers (ph) of human faces behind this industry.

But, it's in that mountain, that unpredictable massive shifting rock. That's where it's happening, that makes mining so dangerous.

Now watch this video, and listen to what happened while a CNN camera crew was inside the Utah coal mine.

I don't know if you saw that, that was CNN's Gary Tuchman and his crew, you can imagine just how frightening it was, they were deep underground when the walls and the ceiling of the mine suddenly rumbled and shook. It was geologists, what they call a mountain bump. A friendly sounding term for a very frightening event.

Joining me now is Lee Siegel, and he is with the University of Utah's seismographic stations.

Before we join you, Lee, can I get air on the monitor here because I can't see what's happening behind me. I mean, I can't see Lee. So, if you can get me air on the monitor below the camera, I would really appreciate it.

OK, so Lee, we saw this graphic. You see this thing here where all the miners were, where they believe the miners are. Tell us exactly what's going on. This seismic event that they call it, and why you believe it is shaking the walls so much when it comes to finding these miners? There's the information right there.

LEE SIEGEL, UNIV. OF UTAH SEISMOGRAPH STATIONS: I can tell you about what the University of Utah seismograph stations recorded last night, and that was at 6:39 p.m. Mountain time. There was a seismic event recorded that had a magnitude of 1.6. And I am told by our seismology people that this indeed coincided with what was felt as the bump within the mine that resulted in the deaths and injuries.

LEMON: Here's what's surprising to me. They're calling this a seismic event, but you're saying most of these seismic events are actually caused -- 98 percent -- are caused by mining?

SIEGEL: In a region -- there's a region of eastern Utah, basically in the shape of an upside down U, in which most of the coal mining occurs. An analysis by our seismologists of the earthquakes in that region, over a multi-year period, shows that only 2 percent are natural or tectonic earthquakes.


SIEGEL: Ninety-eight percent are related to mining. The belief is ...

LEMON: Related to mining or do you believe they're actually caused by mining?

SIEGEL: Caused by mining.

LEMON: They're caused by mining.

SIEGEL: Caused.

LEMON: OK, let's look at ...

SIEGEL: Right.

LEMON: ...right behind me, I've got this -- and I can see it now, so I pardon to you in the beginning, I wasn't sure what was behind me. These -- all of these yellow events are what -- the seismic activity that's believed to be caused before this event on August 6th. And then the red dots are believed the ones that happened after the event. Of course, this star is the main event here.

This seems like a lot of events, this yellow stuff, happening before this seismic event happened to trap these miners. Did people know about that? Did they know what -- that this is all happening? And, if so, why are these guys down in here when all these events are happening?

SIEGEL: I can't answer that, I can tell you what the seismograph stations records. The mining region of eastern Utah has numerous, numerous, numerous small so-called earthquakes that are related to mining, caused by mining. The signature of these is of downward motion, which is different than a natural earthquake.

The 1.6 magnitude event last night that was this bump, also showed -- indicated that it was downward, which suggests ongoing settling and collapse of the mountain there. The -- there have been a total of 22 of these so-called after-events recorded since the collapse on August 6th.

We're picking up -- there were quite a few, about a dozen, the sixth and the seventh. And then, the University of Utah installed more seismographs on and near the mine subsequent to the collapse ...


SIEGEL: now, we're picking up smaller ones, including the one last night.

LEMON: Now, you heard them talk about, during the press conference just a short time ago, talk about these seismic events, and they said last night, it was horizontal pressure as well, pushing down as long as -- horizontally along inside of that mine. And so, when that -- when all of that energy together when it collapsed, they said it's almost like an explosion going off inside of the mine.

SIEGEL: What we record is seismic energy, which is movement of rock underground. And I don't have direct knowledge, but from what I saw at the news conference this morning, Mr. Stickler indicated that the great pressure of this huge amount of rock on top of that mine presses downward, and that puts pressure on the coal pillars that support the mine and when one of these -- you know, the pressure reaches some point, they burst outwards horizontally which is apparently what caused the injury and deaths last night. But ...

LEMON: When you're looking at these seismic events, are you seeing these closer to where mining happens, or does this happen all over in mountainous regions?

SIEGEL: Pardon me?

LEMON: Do you see these seismic events that we -- we had the graphic up here that showed the seismic events that happened before the collapse on August 6th. So, that's just in this region. Is this happening all the time or is this -- does it happen with more frequency near where coal mining is being done?

SIEGEL: My understanding is that mining in general causes seismicity or moving rock. And you're moving rock underground and that results in earth movements and shifting and settling that is recorded as an earthquake, even though it's not a natural earthquake.

What's been said on this over the last day, there's a lot of mention of seismic activity and I'm afraid some people think that that means it's natural. This is mining related. Now, that does not mean that we or anybody else is saying that what they were doing at the time triggered it.

LEMON: Right.

SIEGEL: Nobody knows that, we don't know that. But we can say that there was seismic activity at the time of the bump. It was the bump ...

LEMON: All right.

SIEGEL: ...that showed evidence that it was a downward force occurring.

LEMON: Lee Siegel ...

SIEGEL: Which is consistent with collapse.

LEMON: ...from the University of Utah, we thank you so much for this. This has certainly raised awareness about mining and a whole lot of questions about mining safety in general to come. We certainly wish the men well and we thank you for joining us today in the CNN NEWSROOM.

SIEGEL: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: Don, trapped for 11 days and still counting. Is there a chance anyone can still be alive in the Crandall Canyon Mine? We'll look at the medical odds.


WHITFIELD: The latest mine collapse is a double disaster. Not only did it cost three lives, but for safety reasons, rescuers have stopped trying to tunnel their way to the six miners trapped deep inside the mine. it makes us wonder if there is even a chance, a trace of a chance that those men could still be alive, now 11 days after the original collapse.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here.

So, Elizabeth, you've talked to a number of experts over the past couple of days. Do they all share the opinion about survival rate, or are they differing opinions?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know the opinions that they have, they are pretty similar. And Fredricka used the word trace. Is there a trace of hope? And certainly experts the experts I've talked to said yes, there is a trace of hope, because at 11 days, you need two things to survive. You need water and you need oxygen. Let's deal with oxygen first.

The most recent report is that the oxygen level inside the mine is 16.8 percent. That is certainly enough oxygen to sustain life. I'm breathing right now about 21 percent oxygen. But around 17 percent is certainly plenty to sustain life. You might not feel great, but it's enough to keep them alive.

And as for water, we've seen pictures of waters dripping into the mines, and if indeed they can contain that water -- you see it right there -- if they can get to that water, if they can drink that water and contain that water, then that could keep them alive. You don't need food to stay alive at 11 days, you just need oxygen and you need water. But I'll tell you, Fredricka, the biggest concern I hear from the experts is they say the reports out of the mine about the oxygen levels have really varied. And they said it's also very unclear. The tests may show that they're 16.8 percent oxygen, but is that what the miners are really breathing in, or is that just what the one test showed? So the test doesn't necessarily tell you what those men are breathing in, if they are indeed still alive.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, the rescuers, three of whom are still being hospitalized, what do we know about their condition, what kind of injuries they have sustained, et cetera?

COHEN: Right, we've actually some received good news about the condition of those three hospitalized miners. One of them was in critical condition and is now in serious condition, so that's definitely an improvement. And the other two, one is expected to be released in two to three days, and the other has non-threatening injuries. That was the way it was described to us. So certainly it appears all three of those will be fine.

And, Fredricka, I want to add just what we're talking about yesterday about the survivability if those six men, the six original miners, are still in there, which is, I think it's interesting -- I talked to experts two days ago, and I talked to them today. And I do have to say that the difference in their tone, the difference in their optimism, there really was a marked difference. One of them used the term "dwindling hope." So I just -- it was interesting to talk to them two days ago versus today. Different tone.

WHITFIELD: Yes, 11 days.

COHEN: Yes, it's a long time. It's possible, but it is a long time.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, everybody, of course, is continuing to hold out hope.

COHEN: Of course. Of course. Elizabeth, thanks so much.

LEMON: Another developing story happening in the CNN NEWSROOM, remnants of Tropical Storm Erin delivering a deadly drenching to Texas. Details straight ahead in CNN NEWSROOM.