BOONE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There was a risky rescue in a Boone County mine on Wednesday and police say it was all over copper. But the suspect says he went into the mine to get warm.
Rescue teams went deep into an abandoned mine in search of a missing man, Frank Toath. The mine has been sealed off since 1976.
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Eugene White with the state's office of Miners' Health Safety and Training says the rescue teams are trained to go into abandoned mines but that it is extremely dangerous for anyone to enter an abandoned mine.
About 13 rescuers went inside the mine according to White. He says the rescue effort took about seven hours.
"We go into it knowing its an individual, it's a human life and we're going to go in and try to bring them out," White says.
Toath's family reported him missing. They went to the mine, worried that he was inside. Snow tracks lead them and officials at the mine to the abandoned mine shaft.
"The individual had took a hammer or whatever and made a little hole he could crawl through," White says. White says the cinder block wall built to block the mine opening took hours to cut through.
Inside the hole rescuers found Toath's coat, thermos and truck keys. Toath was found about a mile into the mine sitting in the dark with a chain saw.
The Boone County Sheriff's Department says Toath was there to steal copper but Toath has a different story.
"I did not steal any copper," Toath says. He says he was up on the mountain to cut wood and climbed through the hole into the mine to get warm.
"I fell in a big pond and I walked in that mines to get warm and my light went out I walked about a block or two and I just got lost my light went out and it went black," Toath says.
He did admit he was looking for some coal and he says that is why he ventured so far.
Regardless of the reason, his decision to go inside the mine is a dangerous one.
"You take a mine like this, there's potential for a build up of water or potential for a buildup of mine gasses the roof could deteriorate and have roof falls," White says. "There are a lot of dangers."
Once abandoned mines are sealed they are no longer inspected.
Toath is believed to have been inside the mine for more than 24 hours. The sheriff's office says Toath could be forced to pay for his rescue. Criminal charges are pending.