One worker has died, and a second remained trapped Wednesday after a Kentucky coal plant collapsed with them inside.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed on X, formerly Twitter, that at least one of the workers trapped inside the collapsed coal preparation plant in Martin County has died.
“Please pray for the family and loved ones of this individual,” he wrote without elaborating.
WSAZ/WKYT also confirmed the one death, citing the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.
Beshear had signed an executive order earlier Wednesday declaring a state of emergency in Martin County following the collapse of a coal preparation plant.
“Two workers are trapped inside and a number of teams are working to rescue these individuals,” Beshear wrote earlier on X. “The Order mobilizes state resources to help.”
“Kentucky, please join Britainy and me in praying for their safety and for the brave teams working to rescue them. We will share more information as available,” the Democratic governor added.
In a later update, Beshear wrote, “Kentucky, keep praying — but the scene is bad and we should be prepared for tough news out of Martin County.”
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron also wrote on X, “We are monitoring the news out of Martin County. A coal preparation plant collapsed, and rescue efforts are underway. We ask Kentuckians join us in praying for the two workers who are trapped. We pray for our brave First Responders as they continue rescue operations.”
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and arrived about 10 minutes later to discover a 10-story coal preparation plant had collapsed while two men had been working inside, WYMT reported.
“This coal preparation plant has been out of commission for a while, for several years,” Martin County Sheriff John Kirk told the outlet. “It’s my understanding that the coal company sold it for basically scrap, and they were salvaging what they could out of it.”
The sheriff said the project preparing the structure for demolition had been ongoing for about eight months.
“They typically take these down in sections. They fall them, you know, cut torch and fall them in section,” the sheriff explained. “We believe that’s what happened. That it just didn’t fall the way they had projected it to fall and it actually closed around them.”
Kirk said the building collapsed while the two men were on the bottom floor, trapping them beneath tons of rubble. While the Pikeville Fire Department was first to make contact with one of the workers, responders from several agencies did not initially get in touch with the second, and the tedious rescue effort is said to possibly take days.
“We’ve been able to locate one of them and talk with him. Rescue efforts are underway now. We have multiple agencies down there,” Kirk said. “We’ve got several rescuers inside of the rubble trying to free him.”
“We’re not really equipped for this type of disaster,” Kirk added. “This is a lot of weight. A lot of large metal structures, a lot of concrete and very confined space last. Very tight spaces. Any time you put a rescuer in that situation, you’re putting in putting his life in danger.”
“You kind of feel helpless that you can’t do more, that you can’t for it faster, but this is not a fast process. It’s a very slow process in order to try to keep everybody safe. This is a rescue mission,” the sheriff said. “If you pray, pray for these people. Pray for the victims, the families. Pray for the first responders.”