Family, friends pray for safe return of 3 missing in abandoned West Virginia mine

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WHITESVILLE, W.Va. — In the hills of West Virginia, a desperate search is underway deep inside a shut-down coal mine for three people who’ve been missing since Saturday. A man who entered the mine with them is back above ground and helping the search.

Family members and friends formed a circle of prayer on Wednesday as they waited for word on the fate of 31-year-old Erica Treadway, 21-year-old Cody Beverly and 25-year-old Kayla Williams.

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“She’s a free spirit,” said Randall Williams, Kayla’s father. “The waiting is killing me, man. I want my baby home.”

Eddie Williams, 43, is Kayla’s cousin and was originally with the group. He emerged from the abandoned mine alone Monday night and is assisting the dozens of rescue workers who are searching miles of maze-like tunnels. In some, oxygen levels are perilously low.

It is not uncommon in this financially strapped region for people to risk their lives by entering old mines to take and later sell copper wiring.

“They do whatever they can do to make money if they ain’t got a job. That copper in there, that’s what happens,” said Randall Williams. “I know that’s why she went in there.”

One mystery that officials have not yet explained, is how Williams became separated from the other three and how he managed to escape from the mine alone.

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