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2 Killed, 20 Injured In Ouray Mining Accident

OURAY, Colo. (AP/CBS4) - Two workers were killed and 20 others were injured Sunday in a mining accident near the southwestern Colorado town of Ouray.

The Ouray County sheriff's office was called to the Revenue-Virginius mine at about 7:20 a.m., county spokeswoman Marti Whitmore said. The miners were underground and were confirmed dead Sunday afternoon.

The two workers who were killed have been identified as Nick Cappanno, 34, of Montrose and Rick Williams, 59, of Durango. The cause of death has been ruled carbon monoxide poisoning.

Star Mine Operations, LLC, the owner of the mine, couldn't immediately be reached by the Associated Press for comment, but Whitmore said the company has accounted for all of the workers at the site.

She said 20 people were taken to area hospitals, and all but two have been treated and released. The conditions of those two hospitalized workers haven't been released.

Sources say that the 20 men got sick reentering the mine in order to try and save the two men that passed away.

(credit: CBS)

There was some kind of explosion Saturday which is a standard operating procedure to get rock and ore out of the mine.

Rory Williams, project manager for Star Mine Operations, told the Ouray Watch newspaper the accident was not related to a cave-in or mine collapse but was apparently a "powder-smoke incident," and that the release of chemicals in the smoke injured the miners.

The mine doesn't have permanent carbon monoxide monitors installed but each minor is supposed to have a safety monitor on them.

Williams gave statement describing the safety equipment that the miners had on them inside the mine.

We do provide all miners with their self-rescuer devices which they can wear. On the site we also have breathers which contain oxygen so they can use these items to aid in rescue. So we provide the necessary safety. There are compressed air lines that provide air as well as ventilation lines throughout the mine to help remove these gasses from the area," said Williams.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is at the accident site, which is about 270 miles southwest of Denver.

There is currently an investigation underway that is trying to determine how the carbon monoxide concentration inside the mine got so high and why the monitors weren't functioning.

The last major mining disaster in Colorado occurred on April 15, 1981, when an explosion killed 15 people at the Mid-Continent Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine near Redstone.

There have been eight mining deaths in the state since 2002, not including the two Sunday, according to the mine safety agency.

In 2011, a New Mexico contract worker died after being hurt at the West Elk Coal Mine in Somerset, in western Colorado. The agency found the 53-year-old slipped and fell from a beam at a tower construction site.

In 2012, a 25-year-old water truck driver died after losing control of his vehicle at Colowyo Mine in Moffat County.

The Watch reported that in its heyday, between 1876 and the late 1940s, the Revenue-Virginius mine produced more than 14.5 million ounces of silver, enough to weather the Silver Panic of 1893.

Star Mine Operations acquired the property in late 2011.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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