Mine Safety and Health Administration investigating deadly incident at Revenue-Virginius mine

OURAY, Colo. - Authorities are trying to determine exactly what sort of accident occurred in a mine Sunday in southwestern Colorado that left two miners dead of carbon monoxide poisoning and injured 20 others.

Federal investigators say the two miners who died apparently entered an area of the Revenue Virginius mine where an explosive had been previously detonated.

Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said that preliminary information indicates one of the miners entered the area first. She says when he didn't return, a foreman went looking for him. They were both found later by other miners.

Mine manager Rory Williams previously said there was a blast in the mine on Saturday to remove rock, and the explosion might have been a source of the carbon monoxide.

All of the miners who were hospitalized have been treated and released.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident. 

It has required the mine operator to submit a plan for the rescue teams to re-enter the mine in order to determine that it is properly ventilated and all harmful gases have been removed, so that the investigation can begin.

-- Victims of the blast

The victims of the blast were 34-year-old Nick Cappanno of Montrose, Colo., and 59-year-old Rick Williams of Durango, Colo.

The daughter of one of the injured miners emailed 7NEWS to thank Williams for saving her dad.

"To Rick Williams, I don’t know how to thank you. You gave your life to save my dad you are a true hero in my eyes," wrote Jami Randolph. "My heart weighs heavy know what your family must be going through, but I want them to know the man you saved would have done the same for you. I know it will not make it easier for your family at this time, but in my eyes you are a great hero. Thank you from saving my dad."

Williams was a husband, father of two grown children and grandfather to one granddaughter. Williams' son, Nathan, said his father mined for many years when he was younger, and he had started doing framing and support work again recently.

“Mining is something he’s done his whole life and got back into doing – and he was doing it for his family. Everything he did was for his family.” his son said.

He describes his father as strong and loyal, a man who "knew the mountains like the back of his hand."

Nick Cappanno left behind a wife and two young boys, two and five years old.

He had only been at the mine for a couple of months, and was working there because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

"He didn't like being gone for a week, ten days at a time," said Josh Freed, a close friend of Cappanno's. "So, even though he knew the mining could be dangerous, he knew he could be home with his family by 5 every night."

Cappano was also very active in their church, volunteering to teach Sunday school for children and helping with his time and talents, Freed said.

Cappanno's family has set up the Cappanno Family Memorial Fund through Alpine Bank. Donations may be made at any branch around the state or online at www.cappannomemorialfund.com.

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