Louisville first responders recall working to try and rescue trapped coal miners

When Louisville first responders got the call that an eleven-story building had collapsed onto two people in Eastern Kentucky, they immediately responded.
Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 11:35 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - When Louisville first responders got the call that an eleven-story building had collapsed onto two people in Eastern Kentucky, they immediately responded.

Agencies from all over Kentucky made their way to Martin County when a building collapsed on two coal miners.

Personnel from Louisville Fire and Anchorage Middletown Fire and EMS were a part of the response.

As families slept after a night of trick or treating on Halloween, a call came into Louisville fire at 1:30 in the morning.

“Our Operations Chief called Captain, and all we heard was, ‘Yes sir,’” Trevor Dixon, a sergeant with the Louisville Fire Department said. “So we all kind piped down and were like, ‘This has got to be pretty serious.’ And then he got off the phone, and he said, ‘There was a structural collapse in Eastern Kentucky. How many of you can go?’”

They packed up and made the hours-long trip to the other side of the Commonwealth.

Once the crews got there, they saw the seriousness of the situation.

Two coal miners were trapped under thousands of tons of concrete and steel.

“When you leave, and you drive past an 11-story building, imagine all of that stuff everything that’s inside that building suddenly on the ground, on top of two people,” Jordan Yuodis with Anchorage Middletown Fire and EMS said.

“It’s easy to feel small whenever you’re near a high rise that’s still standing,” Robert Sumpter, a captain with Anchorage Middletown and EMS said. “But you feel really small whenever that multiple-story structure is compressed down on itself and you’re saying, ‘I have to squeeze into that?’”

There was limited access to the site, so they had to park a quarter of a mile away. But their training prepared them for it.

“Our rescue guys this is their bread and butter,” Yuodis said. “This is what they do day in, day out, training for this kind of stuff. But this was like the Super Bowl of that. That’s probably a once-in-a-career event of that magnitude.”

“Loud noises, dark, it was a coal mine so it was really dusty in the air,” Sumpter said. “You think baby wipes will get your hands clean, that’s not the case at all. A couple different showers in a gas station bathroom to get things clean enough.”

The crews were there for four days working around the clock with agencies from all over the state.

However, despite the coordinated effort, the two men trapped died. But that didn’t mean their job was over.

“Would we have loved to rescue those two gentleman? We would’ve,” Captain Donovan Sims of Louisville Fire said. “We also want to make sure those families have closure, they’re able to see their loved ones one more time and be able to have peace with them one more time.”

“I don’t think there was anybody there of the course of that three or four days that would’ve chose to be anywhere else,” Yuodis said.

The first responders say there was no shortage of staff or equipment here in Louisville while they were out on deployment.