The search for two workers, one already declared dead in the collapse of a shuttered Kentucky coal processing facility, trudged into a fourth day with hopes of a rescue looking “grim,” officials said Friday.
Two workers, Pike County residents Billy Ray Daniels and Alvin Nees, had been removing machinery and preparing the building for demolition when the 11-story structure collapsed Tuesday in Martin County, authorities said.
Daniels was declared dead on Wednesday.
“This is certainly now both a rescue and a recovery operation,” Martin County Judge/Executive Lon Lafferty told reporters in rural eastern Kentucky, near the West Virginia border.
“I suspect, unfortunately, throughout the day, that you’re going to be hearing more and more about this becoming a full recovery operation. The circumstances there on the ground are certainly grim.”
The search-and-rescue effort is a dangerous operation as workers climb on the unstable rubble with potentially toxic particulates in the air.
“We’re taking all the precautions,” Kentucky Emergency Management Director Jeremy Slinker said. “Top priority is rescuing and recovering our individuals. But equal or right behind that is the safety of the rescuers.”
Lafferty and Slinker spoke to reporters on Friday near the scene of the collapse, offering the public its first close-up look at the fallen structure.
“The family of Mr. Nees still holds out hope and prayer,” Lafferty said. “They’re very strong in their faith and their convictions in God and so they are still holding out hope and prayer, as we do, for the rescue of Mr. Nees.”
There were four workers on the scene — two inside the building and two outside — when it fell on Tuesday, Lafferty said.
They were removing machinery from the closed Pontiki Preparation Plant in advance to the building’s eventual demolition, officials have said.