LANSING, N.Y. — An elevator that left 17 miners stuck 900-feet down a Cargill Salt Mine reported failure just five days ago, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration

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On online accident report states that the following incident happened Saturday:

At approximately 11:50 a.m.  the #3 Hoist AC breaker tripped and would not reset while doing test trips. About 45 minutes later the breaker was repaired and several test trips were performed successfully. By 1pm the hoist was back up and running. No one was underground at the time of the incident.

The cage that was lowered into the mine shaft using a crane to rescue miners stuck in an elevator 900 feet below the surface at the Cargill salt mine in Lansing.

The same hoist was involved in an accident that left 17 mine workers trapped in an elevator for around 10 hours late Wednesday and into Thursday morning.

Related: A beginner’s guide to the rescue of 17 workers from the Cargill Salt Mine

The possibility that the same malfunction caused Wednesday night’s incident is being investigated, said Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

She said an inspector, field officer supervisor, several tech support experts, and shaft and elevator subject matter experts are part of investigating what caused the incident.

“Malfunction of these elevators are not uncommon,” she said, but what made the Lansing situation different from other failures was the number or people stuck and the amount of time it took to rescue them.

Officials have previously said that multiple rescue efforts were considered.

Lieutenant Tom Basher, of the Ithaca Fire Department, said the rope rescue team was dispatched to the scene, but a 900-foot rappel is not something that has been done, to his knowledge, in the Southern Tier area.

He and other firefighters were prepared to make the attempt, he said, but a crane was eventually brought to the scene from Auburn.

Mine manager Shawn Wilczynski said earlier that finding a crane long enough to rescue the workers proved challenging and time consuming.

He initially said at a press conference that initial information indicated that the elevator stall may have been caused by a steel beam that could have come out of line and stopped the car about half-way down the 2,300-foot shaft.

Louviere said that has not been ruled out as a cause for the incident.

She said equipment evaluations and witness interviews will all contribute to determining the cause of the elevator stall.

The Cargill Salt Mine was awarded the Centennial of Safety Award for Safest Large Underground Nonmetal Mine in the country in 2011 and 2013.
According to The Post-Standard, between 2005 and 2015, the mine reported 15 worker injuries and one fatality. The injury incidence rate was less than the national average during all but last year.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.