Lansing and Ithaca firefighters among crews who rescue 17 trapped miners at Cargill plant

January 7, 2016 by Mark H. Anbinder

Firefighters from the Lansing Fire Department and Ithaca Fire Department were among crews from "over 15 agencies" that assisted with an effort to rescue 17 miners trapped at the Cargill Salt Mine in Lansing overnight. All 17 miners have been rescued as of 8:35am in what an IFD representative called "one of the most difficult rescues in recent memory."

A crane from Auburn has been brought in to assist. Photo courtesy Ithaca Fire Department.A crane from Auburn has been brought in to assist. Photo courtesy Ithaca Fire Department.The mine workers were stuck in a malfunctioning elevator 775 feet down an access shaft, and had been trapped there since 10:20pm on Wednesday. According to Tompkins County officials, the miners were just beginning a shift. 

"So far, all is going well getting them to safety," said Bangs Ambulance early this morning. According to the Ithaca Fire Department, four of the trapped mine workers had been raised to the surface as of about 7am, and county officials said eight had been rescued as of about 7:30am, and 12 as of about 8am. "It takes approximately 45 minutes per trip," according to the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response.

Trapped miners are lifted to the surface at Cargill. Photo courtesy of Ithaca Fire Department.Trapped miners are lifted to the surface at Cargill. Photo courtesy of Ithaca Fire Department.IFD says their technical rescue experts assisted on the scene. Bangs Ambulance personnel were also on the scene, evaluating miners as they were brought to the surface. According to IFD, the rescue involved "over 15 agencies" that came together in frigid temperatures. They credit Auburn Crane and Rigging for bringing a heavy duty crane and the basket that lifted miners to the surface beginning at about 6am.

Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response public information officer Marcia Lynch says a call came into the county 911 center at 11:40pm. County officials say rescue crews were "in constant contact with trapped personnel," and were able to lower blankets, food, and water to them. The elevator that held the miners is large enough to carry vehicles and equipment between the surface and the mine floor.

Lansing Fire Department was assisted at the scene by Ithaca Fire Department, Cayuga Heights Fire Department, Trumansburg Fire Department, Bangs Ambulance, Watkins Glen Fire Department/Schuyler Rope Rescue, Auburn Crane and Rigging, Naples Fire Department Rope Rescue (Ontario County), Tompkins County Sheriff's Department, and Tompkins County Dept. of Emergency Response, according to county officials.

Cargill's mine on the shores of Cayuga Lake dates back about a century. According to the Lansing Star, miners started digging a shaft in 1915 to reach one of the salt beds that formed hundreds of millions of years ago as a formerly submerged ocean area stretching from Ohio to Albany dried up. Cargill Deicing Technology produces about two million tons of rock salt per year, with over 200 employees working three shifts a day.

Mayor Svante Myrick says no one is injured. County officials say the miners are not in danger, and the rescued miners are healthy and unharmed.

"I want to thank the dedicated first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to ensure the safe return of these miners," said New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement. "This is the perfect example of New Yorkers coming together in times of need, and I am grateful for the efforts of all those involved in this operation." Cuomo has ordered an investigation into the incident to ensure mine safety.

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