FRANKFORT - Search and recovery efforts have been called off for a 62-year-old welder/iron worker who was presumed dead from an explosion July 31 at a Muhlenberg County mine. Richard L. Knapp, West Frankfort, Illinois, had suffered critical injuries at the Kenamerican Resources, Inc. Paradise Mine in Bremen, Ky., a state news release said.

Kenamerica company employees, along with mine safety officials from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Department for Natural Resources, and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration worked last week to clear the 380-foot mine elevator shaft of explosive methane gases in order to access the shaft and recover Knapp’s body. Those gasses dissipated enough Saturday morning to allow the repeated lowering of a camera, which caught no sight of the worker at the water-filled bottom.

Mine owners made the decision to halt further recovery attempts so as to not put in jeopardy any rescue workers who would have had to be lowered down the elevator shaft in a further search for the victim's body.

Knapp, an employee of Fricke Management & Contracting, Murphysboro, Illinois, was constructing a form which would be used to fill a mine shaft with concrete, part of an effort to seal and close the idled mine. The second of two methane gas explosions in the shaft caused Knapp to fall into the opening.

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