A group of West Virginians rescued after being trapped for days in an abandoned mine are suspected of entering the mine to steal copper, authorities said Thursday.
Three people were brought to the surface and transported to a local hospital for medical treatment, Samantha Smith, a spokeswoman with the West Virginia Department of Commerce, told CNN late Wednesday.
Accidents, disasters and safety
Continents and regions
Government and public administration
Government bodies and offices
Heads of government
Political Figures - US
Southeastern United States
Business and industry sectors
Business, economy and trade
Mining and minerals
Kayla Williams, 25, of Artie; Erica Treadway, 31, of Pax; and Cody Beverly, 21, of Dorothy were alert, talking and walking without assistance, Raleigh County Sheriff Scott Van Meter said. He said the three had snacks and water with them.
"It's a miracle they were found alive," the sheriff said.
Their entry into the mine is under investigation, according to Lt. Mark McCray of the Raleigh County Sheriff's Office. Entering into an underground coal mine with intent to commit any larceny is a felony in West Virginia, according to McCray. But he said no charges have been filed in the case.
Williams, Treadway and Beverly were among four people reported missing Saturday after an ATV they were believed to be using was found abandoned near the entrance of the Rock House Powellton mine in Clear Creek, according to a statement from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
One of those, Eddie Williams, 43, of Artie emerged late Monday, according to the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.
He said the three others were trapped and gave authorities details of their location, according to the governor's office.
Rescue teams failed to find the missing three earlier this week, but they removed standing water from the mine and pumped in fresh air. By Wednesday, more access space had been cleared, allowing additional rescuers to enter, Justice's office said.
Cheering and crying family members celebrated the trio's rescue Wednesday night, according to video from CNN affiliate WVVA.
"We drank mine water. We had no food," Beverly told ABC after being rescued. "We just found a stream in the mine, just started drinking and hoping and praying to God that it was not contaminated."
The underground mine is inactive and sealed, Contura Energy, whose affiliate Elk Run Coal owns the property, told CNN, adding that the person who made it out earlier "was apprehended by law enforcement."
The trespassing incident was the second one reported at an abandoned mine in the last two weeks, Justice said in a statement.
Van Meter said the three found alive Wednesday could possibly be charged because they were not supposed to be in the mine.
But first, the sheriff said, "they need to enjoy being rescued."