FRANKFORT, Ky. — Search and recovery efforts have been called off for a 62-year-old welder/iron worker who was presumed dead from an explosion July 31 at a Muhlenberg County mine. Richard L. Knapp, West Frankfort, Ill., had suffered critical injuries at the Kenamerican Resources, Inc. Paradise Mine in Bremen, Ky.
Kenamerica company employees, along with mine safety officials from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s (EEC) Department for Natural Resources, and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) worked last week to clear the 380-foot mine elevator shaft of explosive methane gases in order to access the shaft and recover Knapp’s body. Those gasses dissipated enough Saturday morning to allow the repeated lowering of a camera, which caught no sight of the worker at the water-filled bottom.
Mine owners made the decision to halt further recovery attempts so as to not put in jeopardy any rescue workers who would have had to be lowered down the elevator shaft in a further search for Knapp’s body.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic accident at the Paradise Mine in Muhlenberg County,” said Gov. Matt Bevin. “Our dedicated coal miners and mine workers do so much every day to keep our communities running strong. As Kentuckians, we want to offer our prayers and support to Mr. Knapp’s family, friends and co-workers during this very difficult time.”
Knapp, an employee of Fricke Management & Contracting, Murphysboro, Ill., was constructing a form which would be used to fill a mine shaft with concrete, part of an effort to seal and close the idled mine. The second of two methane gas explosions in the shaft caused Knapp to fall into the opening.
Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely extended his deepest sympathies to the Knapp family.
“While we had 25 mine safety personnel from across the state at the site, regrettably it became too unsafe to continue the recovery efforts,” Secretary Snavely. “But we have already begun looking into the cause of this accident and will make every attempt to use what we learn going forward to keep miners and mine workers as safe as possible.”