Three people who were trapped in an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia since Saturday have been found, according to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.
After getting all three people out of the mine safely, they were brought to their family and friends. After the reunion they were taken to the hospital to be checked out.
“It’s a Christmas blessing, that’s all there is to it,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice told reporters.
The first person was found at around 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to a representative from the Office of Miners Health Safety and Training. About 30 minutes later, the other two were rescued about 1,000 ft. away from the first, officials said.
“We go into these events not to recover, we go to rescue,” said Eugene White, director for the Office of Miners Health Safety and Training.
White said his concern now is for the rescue team who found the three stuck in the mine. “I’d love to be up there hugging them,” he said.
A total of four people were reported missing Saturday after their abandoned ATV was found near the entrance to the Rock House Powelltown coal mine, in Clear Creek, according to West Virginia governor Jim Justice.
The fourth person from the group — Eddie Williams, 43 — was able to escape from the mine on Monday evening. Williams told authorities Kayla Williams, 25, Erica Treadway, 31, and Cody Beverly, 21, were still inside, according to a statement from the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office.
Rescue teams from the Office of Miners’ Health and Safety and numerous other state and local agencies had been searching for the missing trio since the weekend.
On Tuesday evening, MHS&T and other authorities were able to enter through the Rock Creek portal of the mine and add large fans to move fresh air, and to install water pumps to help clear the standing water in the cave.
Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office Lt. M.A. McCray told ABC News that the individuals did not enter at the main entrance, but rather used what’s called a “punch out hole” – a small shaft either accidentally punched out of the side of a mountain or created for ventilation.
Officials have said that the group went into the cave in search of copper wire — a lucrative commodity in a financially-depressed region of the state.
No coal has been extracted from the mine for two years, officials said.
The rescue teams were unable to locate the three people on Monday and expanded their search on Tuesday, progressing more than 4,000 ft. into the mine before locating the missing three on Wednesday evening, officials said.
There is a pending criminal investigation into the group’s activities upon entering the mine, officials said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.