The body of a third man was pulled today from beneath a 35-foot block of slate, ending a 33-hour rescue mission that had freed three trapped miners.
The wife and five children of Donald Arbogast, 31, were notified this morning that the miner's body had been found at the end of the Stillhouse Run mine, a third of a mile inside Leatherwood Mountain.
Arbogast was one of three men killed when a block of slate fell without warning from the mine roof Thursday night. The collapse triggered an around-the-clock rescue effort, and three other trapped men were freed after lying for hours in the darkness.
An investigator from the state Department of Mines said a preliminary inspection at the non-union mine showed no violations by the coal company. Neither the investigator nor company officials would speculate on what caused the accident.
Even before the last rescuer was out, residents of the central West Virginia community were banding together in support of the victims' families.
At Carol Hamrick's village store, a group of women who had stayed up for two nights making food for rescuers began preparing to aid the widows and children of the dead miners. "People will send food and donations to the family. They always do," Hamrick said.
Arbogast's brother, Walter, said Arbogast had worried about the mine roof on the day he died. "He didn't think he was going to go to work on account of the bad top they'd run into," the brother said. "But he went anyway."
Arbogast apparently died instantly along with Bob Bennett, 34, and Doyle Gillis, 36. They were crushed under a slate block 35 feet long, 20 feet wide and 8 feet thick, according to Elk River Sewell Coal Co., which owns the mine.
"When it the roof came down, it shattered," said Walter Metheny, an inspector for the Department of Mines. "In my opinion, they were killed instantly.
"There is nothing that would have held this up. No roof supports of any kind would have prevented this. Even if the roof bolts were anchored into something solid, they would have stretched like pieces of taffy."
Asked if there was any way to prevent such roof falls, Metheny replied, "Just don't mine the coal."
Rescuers found Donzil Cutlip, 27, pinned under the block about seven hours after the fall, but it took six more hours to free him. He was in serious condition today after surgery to repair deep gashes in both arms.
Larry Clevenger, 18, and Carl Hull, 24, were rescued earlier and were unhurt. Clevenger said the seven-hour period before rescuers found him was "the worst thing that ever happened to me."
Company spokesman Charles Sinsel said mining operations would be suspended pending state and federal investigations.
Rescuer Tom May said some miners had vowed not to return to the mine.
"Some of them said they wasn't going to come back. I said I wasn't," he said.
"But I will. It's just one of those things."