Searchers in Nevada found the remains of two miners at the bottom of a gold mine shaft, company officials said Saturday, after crews worked for more than 32 hours to safely access the area 1,300 feet underground.
The victims were identified by Barrick Gold of North America as Daniel Patrick Noel, 47, and Ethan Joel Schorr, 38, both of Spring Creek. Noel is survived by his wife and three children, while Schorr is survived by his wife and four children.
The company said the men had been missing since early Thursday when a vertical pipe broke from a wall and struck a cage similar to an elevator lowering the pair into the ventilation shaft. The pipe runs the length of the Meikle mine shaft.
"This is a tragic event and we remain focused on assisting these miners' families," said Greg Lang, president of Barrick's North America Region.
The accident raises the number of fatalities at the mine since it opened in 1994 to seven. In Nevada, the world's fourth largest gold producer behind South Africa, Australia and China, there have been 28 mining deaths in the last decade.
"We place great value in our coworkers' health and safety, and we will do everything we can to prevent an incident like this from happening again," Lang said.
The Meikle mine, about 55 miles northwest of Elko and 275 miles northeast of Reno, is operated by its subsidiary Barrick Goldstrike Mines. The mine has about 300 workers, and its underground operations have been shut down since the accident.
The pipe that broke Thursday is about 2 feet in diameter and used to carry crushed stone and rocks.
Crews began finding human remains after reaching the area Friday, said Elko County Sheriff Dale Lotspeich, who also is the county coroner. It will take authorities three weeks to two months to positively identify the remains, he said.
"These types of mining jobs have an inherent risk involved, but nobody is prepared when something major happens and this type of thing occurs," the sheriff said. "We're trying to bring closure not only to the families but to the mining community."
Toronto-based Barrick, the largest gold company in the world, owns several mines in Nevada.
The men were being lowered in the cage to inspect the pipe when the accident occurred, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.