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Stay Out Stay Alive Fatal Accident Summaries
for 2008

May 18, 2008

Two brothers and their best friend died Saturday night while searching for gold in an abandoned mine that may have released a toxic gas, officials said.

Officers responded around 11:30 p.m. Saturday and found the victims, ages 26, 25, and 23 inside the roughly 20-foot-deep mine.

The three men died from a lack of oxygen, officials said. They were using a gasoline-powered pump to drain underground water from the mine, said Karen Guillemin, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire. Their plan was to eventually dig for gold, Guillemin said.

Police were called by neighbors after the three men didn't return for a scheduled event, officials said.

"We thought maybe there had been a cave-in, because all of these old mines are either caved-in or full of water," said a person familiar with the mine. "When we got there we shined a light down the shaft and saw them laying there about 20 feet away."

Eastern Madera County is littered with abandoned mines that are still open, according to the Madera County Sheriff's Office.

(Sources: KCRA in Sacramento, CA and news services)