CRYSTAL SPRINGS - The search for two men trapped after a landslide in Copiah County has been deemed a "recovery effort."
Sheriff Harold Jones said two men were at the bottom of a pit at Green Brother Gravel Co. Inc. in Crystal Springs around noon Friday when a wall of gravel collapsed on top of their equipment, burying them under at least 10-12 feet of sludge.
Jones said the search was no longer considered a rescue mission.
"It's a miracle if we find anyone alive," he said.
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Officials have not released the names of the men involved in the incident. However, relatives at the scene identified one of the men as Emmitt Shorter, 24.
His uncle Oscar Johnson said, "I want to hope he's alive, but I don't think so."
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency was on the scene, but the effort was being primarily handled by the Mining Safety and Health Administration. The state Fire Academy and multiple volunteer fire departments also responded.
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MSHA officials at the scene would not comment. A MSHA spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Green Brothers workers who asked not to be named said one of the men was driving an excavator and another was driving a truck moments before the landslide.
Johnson said Shorter was driving the excavator. The body of the excavator was buried, but the crook of the arm could be seen rising out of the dirt. The truck was not visible.
Two bulldozers were alternately driving dirt toward the buried men to build a path.
Johnson compared the dirt to quicksand.
While the incident occurred around noon Friday, workers began digging about 2 p.m.
Johnson questioned why it took two hours for the effort to begin.
"We're thinking that they should have had some kind of equipment down here to do something about getting those people out of there," Johnson said.
More than 100 people stood around the pit, watching and praying out loud. Some wiped away tears.
Shorter's friends were at the scene and professed hope he would make it out alive.
"'The Man' can do anything," one said, referring to God.
Another added, "We always have faith."