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17 Salt Miners Freed from Stuck Elevator in Tompkins County

By Faith Jessie.
Seventeen Cargill salt mine employees were rescued Thursday morning after being trapped 900 feet under the Cayuga Lake.

At approximately 10:00 p.m. Wednesday night, 17 Cargill Salt mine employees were trapped in an elevator en route to the mine.

Tompkins County Sheriffs responded to the scene around 12:30 a.m. Lansing Fire and Ithaca Fire were also among responders.

The 17 employees were able to communicate via radio with responders above the ground however they remained under ground for over 8 hours before the frost extraction was able to take place.

Lansing Fire representatives say responders above the ground were able to send employees items like jackets, hand warmers and coffee while they waited.

According to Tompkins County Lieutenant Daniel Donahue, a crane from a private contractor out of Auburn arrived to the scene at 7:00 a.m. to begin the extraction.

Employees were pulled out of the mine in small groups, the last of the 17 employees were extracted at approximately 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

No injuries were reported at the time of the extraction.

"The environment was calm but efficient," said Tompkins County Lieutenant Daniel Donahue.

Governor Cuomo issued a statement today announcing a full investigation into the circumstances and cause of the incident.

"We now think there was a beam that keeps the elevator car centered that was bent... you know that is what we are looking at now," said Cargill spokesman Mark Klein.

Cargill isn't a stranger to disaster. Back in 2010 one employee died after a routine load of salt into a truck resulted in a structure collapse. Yet Cargill representative Mark Klein says that these incidents are rare and that the employees are trained to handle emergency situations.

"Mine evacuations are something that we practice during the year and go through various crisis scenarios and I think that practice played a role today," said Klein

The cause of what created the elevator malfunction is still under investigation.