MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. (WOWK) — The two workers in the Kentucky coal preparation collapse have been found dead, according to Martin County Judge Executive Dr. Lon Lafferty.
Lafferty previously identified the two men as Billy Ray Daniels, who was the first to be reported as deceased, and Alvin Nees, whom they had been looking for for almost three days.
The search for Nees, who is believed to be trapped under layers of rubble, is still a rescue operation and they are entering a new phase, Lafferty said during a press conference Thursday morning.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Lafferty said the call first came in around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday and crews from Martin, Pike and Floyd counties responded.
The two men, both from Pike County and believed to be working for Skeens Contracting from Pikeville, were trapped under tons of concrete and steel in the building, a former coal preparation plant, at Martin Mine Prep Plant near Middlefork Wolfe Creek Road, according to Lafferty. Gov. Andy Beshear declared a State of Emergency following the collapse.
Beshear confirmed the death of one earlier on Wednesday, and Lafferty said the other worker is still trapped. There were more than two workers in the building when it collapsed, Lafferty said at the press conference on Wednesday.
Lafferty on Thursday said they still have not been able to find the missing worker and they are going into a new phase where they begin to remove rubble to help find that worker.
Lafferty described the scene as “horrific” and compared it to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, Jeremy Slinker, director of Kentucky Emergency Management (KEM), compared it to a candle factory disaster where a number of workers died when a tornado leveled the building.
Slinker said KEM will continue to give first responders and authorities in Martin County whatever they need during the rescue efforts and might have to reach out to other states if the rescue effort goes beyond what they can handle. He also said communication is one of the biggest challenges because some of the areas have no cell or internet service.
To help with search efforts, the Associated Press reported that Special Operations Battalion Chief Chris Ward of the Lexington Fire Department said rescue crews are using search and cadaver dogs to look through the rubble.
Beshear asked Kentuckians to join him and his wife, Britainy, “in praying for [the workers’] safety and for the brave teams working to rescue them.”