2 trapped when coal plant collapses

Published 2:50 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023


One man has died after he and a co-worker became trapped after an 11-story high coal preparation plant collapsed in Martin County on Tuesday evening has died. Workers were still conducting a search for the second man at press time.

The incident led to Gov. Andy Beshear issuing an executive order declaring a state of emergency on Wednesday.

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He said in a mid-morning Facebook post: “Kentucky, we have some tough news out of Martin County to share. At least one of the workers trapped inside the collapsed coal preparation plant has died. Please pray for the family and loved ones of this individual.”

WYMT-TV in Hazard reports the Martin County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched around 6:30 p.m. and on their arrival found a more than 10-story coal preparation plant had collapsed while the two were working inside, preparing the structure for demolition.

“This coal preparation plant has been out of commission for a while, for several years,” Martin County Sheriff John Kirk told the television station. “It’s my understanding that the coal company sold it for basically scrap, and they were salvaging what they could out of it.”

Kirk said the project has been ongoing for nearly eight months, but something happened Tuesday that was out of the norm.

“They typically take these down in sections. They fall them, you know, cut torch and fall them in sections,” he said. “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Kirk confirmed a worker whose crew originally made contact when they arrived at the facility is the one who died.

Col. Jeremy Slinker, the director of Kentucky Emergency Management, is on scene and working the incident as part of a unified command with several partner agencies. KYEM Assistant Director of Operations Dustin Heiser is also on scene manning KYEM’s Mobile Command Vehicle, with other emergency management officials supporting the search and rescue efforts.

In addition to local personnel, other agencies involved include:

• Jefferson County Urban Search and Rescue.

• Lexington Fire Department Special Operations Unit.

• The National Guard’s Special Tactics Squadron K9 search dog.

• The Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue Team.

The names of the two men have not yet been released.