Officials with state and federal agencies were searching Thursday afternoon for a man who fell into a mine elevator shaft after an explosion in Muhlenberg County.

The incident occurred about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Paradise Mine in Central City. A press release from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet identified the worker as Richard L. Knapp, who works for the Murphysboro, Illinois, firm of Fricke Management & Contracting.

John Mura, executive director of communications for the state Energy and Environment Cabinet, said the mine shaft hadn't been used for some time and was in the process of being closed. The press release says Knapp was "constructing a form which would be used to fill a mine shaft with concrete" when the explosion occurred and Knapp fell.

The shaft had high levels of methane gas, "but we don't know what sparked it," Mura said.

Search crews have not been able to enter the mine because of the level of methane gas, Mura said. Workers were filling the elevator shaft with air to ventilate it before attempting to enter, Mura said.

The mine is owned by Kenamerican Resources Inc. in Central City. Kenamerican officials could not be reached at their office Thursday.

Officials from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration were also at the site. Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for MSHA in Washington D.C., said the incident would be investigated.

"MSHA investigates all mining fatalities, and will be conducting an investigation," Louviere said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303,, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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