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Mine rescue teams compete in Pikeville

PIKEVILLE — With shouts of "methane, CO, oxygen!" and tied together five at a time, mine rescue teams navigated obstacle courses laid out in a city park Wednesday.

Kentucky Employers Mutual Insurance's second annual mine safety contest brought 36 teams from six states to Pikeville this week. Federal law requires such contests for mine rescue squads.

The number of squads has grown, especially since the fatal 2006 Kentucky Darby mine explosion, although it can cost as much as $500,000 to train and equip a squad. Relatively new federal regulations require each mine to have two rescue squads, Kentucky Coal Association president Bill Caylor said.

New laws and technology have helped safety increase dramatically, Caylor said, and he hopes that there will be a year with no mine fatalities by the time he retires.

That didn't happen in Bob Amos Park in Pikeville Wednesday. At least one team wasn't able to rescue its disaster survivors inside the one-hour time limit. But contest organizer Daven Hoskins, with KEMI said the teams are incredibly well trained.

"Mine rescue has really picked up in the last three years," Hoskins said.