Elevator Plunges In South African Mine, Kills 11, Injures 75

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An elevator suddenly dropped more than 650 feet while carrying workers to the surface in a platinum mine in South Africa, killing 11 and injuring 75 — 14 of them critically, the mine operator said Tuesday.

Impala Platinum said 14 of the injured workers remained in “critical condition” after the disaster on Monday as the elevator brought the miners up after the end of their shift.

All operations at the Rustenburg mine, northwest of Johannesburg, have been suspended while an investigation is started, company chief executive Nico Muller said in a statement.

Muller said the “devastating accident” at the mine was “the darkest day in the history” of the company, which is known as Implats.

There were 86 employees in the three-level lift when it “unexpectedly reversed direction and began descending back down through the shaft,” Implats said in the statement.

Implats spokesman Johan Theron told AFP that a winder mechanism at Rustenberg went into reverse and accelerated, causing the lift to plunge at speed.

One “emergency” system failed to stop the lift which came to an “almost instantaneous” halt when a counterbalance weight rose to ground level and was caught in safety devices.

Implats said the lift sped down for about 180 metres of the 1,000 (3,280 feet) metre shaft.