Families in West Virginia were cheering Wednesday night as they were united with three loved ones who were trapped in an abandoned coal mine for four excruciating days.
Kayla Williams, 25, Erica Treadway, 31, and Cody Beverly, 21, disappeared on Saturday. Their abandoned ATV was later found near the entrance to Elk Run Coal’s Rock House Powellton mine in Clear Creek, the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
A fourth member of the group, 43-year-old Eddie Williams, was able to find his way out on Monday and point authorities to their location, ABC News reported. On Tuesday, rescue workers cleared standing water in the caves through water pumps and installed large fans to move fresh air into the mines to keep the group alive.
Officials said that the foursome went into the cave in search of copper wire, a “lucrative commodity in a financially depressed region of the state,” ABC News reported. They entered the non-operational mine through a small ventilation shaft on the side of the mountain called a “punch out hole,” Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office Lt. M.A. McCray told the outlet.
“It’s a Christmas blessing,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told reporters, the Washington Post reported. “This is an outcome that I really, truly, in my heart didn’t think would happen.”
Emotional video of Kayla, Treadway and Beverly seeing their family members again was captured at a Charleston hospital on Wednesday night.
“It was terrible,” Beverly told reporters in a clip aired on NBC’s Today. “Anybody who was involved in searching for us, I just want to thank you, from everything inside of me. This is the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in my life. This is a life-changing experience for me.”
Elk Run Coal’s Rock House Powellton mine has been inactive for nearly two years, NBC News reported. A sheriff’s spokesman told the outlet that entering an abandoned mine is illegal.