KEYSTONE, W.Va. — The search for a man trapped in an abandoned West Virginia coal mine has ended with no sign of him, relatives said Thursday.

The family of Clay Epperly, 30, of Keystone, told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (http://bit.ly/2c5chRT ) that rescue crews encountered too many dangerous situations underground to continue and the mine will be sealed.

Sgt. R.A. Daniel of the West Virginia State Police Welch Detachment also confirmed to the newspaper that the search was over.

Efforts to find Epperly were halted Wednesday as oxygen levels inside the mine in McDowell County dropped dangerously low. Giant fans were moved onto the site to help improve air quality and make conditions safer for rescue workers, and crews went back in Thursday afternoon.

“Any area of oxygen deficiency is dangerous,” said Southern Mines COO Tom Lusk. “It’s a complicated shaft. These old mines are deadly. That’s why we urge people to stay out of them.”

Epperly and three friends — 38-year-old Steve Cordle, 35-year-old Brandon Collins and 22-year-old Justin Bolen — entered the mine Monday night. Epperly became separated from the group, and the friends went back into the mine looking for him about 2 a.m. Tuesday.

The search by rescue volunteers started later Tuesday morning.

The 100-year-old mine was sealed in 1987.

People have been known to enter the mine to search for old copper trolley cables, said Senior Trooper B.D. Gillespie. Police believe Epperly was searching for copper to sell.

The men could face charges, including felony breaking and entry.


Information from: Bluefield Daily Telegraph, http://www.bdtonline.com