Without warning, two girls riding their ATVs on the dirt trails of Arizona plummeted 125-feet down an abandoned mine shaft covered by brush.
Thirteen-year-old Rikki Howard died from the fall, while 10-year-old half-sister Casie Hicks remains hospitalized at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
The girls and their father had been riding Sept. in Chloride, 200 miles from Phoenix when the accident occurred. Their father was riding ahead of them until he noticed they weren’t there. Rescuers searched through rough terrain and darkness to no avail.
Survivor Spent Night Alone in ShaftWith the next day’s sunlight, rescuers rappelled to reach the girls. The ATV was also at the shaft's bottom. When the girl’s father called down the shaft, only Hicks answered. “A 10-year-old girl spent the night at the bottom of a mine shaft, which is the most horrifying thing I can think of," Capt. Greg Smith of the Mohave County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) said."The girls were driving along and went into the mine,” said Sandy Edwards of the MCSD. “It was a total accident.”
Seth Johnson, the father's landlord, said "It's an awful shock. The parents are very distraught."
Abandoned Mines Commonplace in ArizonaThere's a significant amount of abandoned mines out there that are hazardous to the public's health," said Laurie Swartzbaugh, deputy director of the Arizona State Mine Inspector's office.
Privately Owned Mines Require Fences, SignsAccording to the State of Arizona Mine Inspector’s Office website, Statute 27-318 specifies, “Every mine operator or former mine operator or claimant who owns a mine or mining claim or possess a mine or mining claim under lease, contract, permit or otherwise, who knowingly permits the existence on the premises of an abandoned or inactive mining shaft, portal, pit or other excavation which is dangerous to persons legally on the premises, who fails to cover, fence, fill or otherwise secure it and post warning signs, within 60 days of notification by the inspector and who fails to keep it so protected is guilty of a Class 2 Misdemeanor. This means that anyone owning a mine must keep it fenced and have warning signs posted.“
As for safeguarding the public, which didn’t happen in this case, deputy mine inspectors visit all unprotected abandoned mines reported to the office. They post warning signs and tape off dangerous openings. The owners are notified of their responsibility for keeping the mine fenced to protect the public. If no owner of record is found, the Deputy Mine Inspectors will erect a fence around the opening. The website said there are 100,000 abandoned mines in Arizona.