2 dead, 20 miners injured at Ouray County mine

Miners possibly overcome by carbon monoxide

OURAY, Colo. - Two miners died and 20 others were injured in a mine accident involving carbon monoxide, in Ouray County on Sunday.

The accident happened at the Revenue Virginius mine at 7:20 a.m. and Ouray County emergency units responded immediately.

"A foreman and one miner were overcome by gases following an explosives accident," said Amy Louviere, public affairs officer for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.  "Other miners in the area evacuated the mine. Mine rescue teams were dispatched and brought the victims to the surface at 2 p.m."  

The dead were identified Sunday night as Nick Cappanno, 34 of Montrose, and  Rick Williams, 59, of Durango.  The company declined to give their job descriptions out of respect to the family.

Mine manager Rory Williams told 7NEWS reporter Jaclyn Allen they likely died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the gases may have been released by blasting Saturday or earlier.  Carbon monoxide can come from powder smoke from a blast, he said.

"Some miners were attempting to save the others and started to feel effects of gas and had to leave the area prior to being able to help the other individuals," said Williams.

The Coroner’s preliminary report confirmed that the cause of death for both men was carbon monoxide poisoning. Complete autopsies are pending.

Williams said the mine has portable gas detectors and that miners are required to take them in the mine if there is any concern, but he did not know of the men killed were using them.

Williams said he was saddened by the loss of life.

"It’s horrible. I knew both those guys and they were good friends. It’s just terrible,” said Williams. 

He said all miners wear gas detectors that detect four different dangerous gases.  Investigators were examining the detectors worn by the deceased miners to see if they were on and working.  

The incident happened about 8,000 feet from the mine entrance in a horizontal shaft the same level as the mine entrance. 

"A rescue was initiated for two miners who remained underground. Unfortunately, they have both been confirmed as fatalities at the site by the County Coroner," on-scene public information officer Marti Whitmore said in a 4:15 p.m. release.

Of the 20 taken to hospitals, 16 were treated and released.  four remained hospitalized at 10 p.m., 7NEWS reporter Jaclyn Allen said. Two people were admitted Montrose Memorial Hospital, in fair condition; one was admitted to Delta County Memorial Hospital in fair condition; and one was admitted at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction.

-- Colorado Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety involved in probe --

The Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (DRMS) will be cooperating with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration in MSHA’s investigation of the mine accident .

DRMS regulates environmental impacts at the mine. Mine safety and enforcement is under the jurisdiction of MSHA.

Star Mine Operations LLC obtained a permit for the Revenue Mine southwest of Ouray in February of 2013 to mine silver, gold and sulfide minerals from vein deposits on patented mining claims owned by the company. This followed prospecting at the site beginning in 2011. All mining at the site is conducted underground via drill and blast methods. Surface disturbances associated with the Revenue operation include water ponds, waste storage, mining support facilities and processing facilities. DRMS’ last inspection of surface facilities was in September 2013 to review the construction and certification of the underground mill for processing ore and technical aspects related to surface facilities. DRMS holds a $277,078 reclamation bond for the 34-acre site.

"The Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety extends its deepest sympathies to the miners and families of those affected by this tragedy,." the agency said in a prepared statement.

The Revenue Virginius Mine is located 6.9 miles southwest of Ouray near Yankee Boy Basin. Company officials said the mine would remain closed during the investigation and until they can make sure something like today's tragedy "never happens again."

Ouray is about 100 miles southeast of Grand Junction, Colo., on the Western Slope.

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Colorado has had only 8 fatal accidents in mines since 2002, according to a MHSA records, the last occurring in 2012 in a coal mine. No fatalities were reported in 2013. The records show that there have been 5 injuries and no fatalities in this mine since it resumed operations in 2011.  Three of those were in 2012 and two were in 2013, MHSA records show.

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