Miners remembered in deadly salt mine collapse

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AVERY ISLAND, La. (KLFY) — Both men trapped underground after a salt mine’s roof collapsed Monday morning are now tragically pronounced dead.

The Iberia Parish Coroner identified the two Wednesday as Lance Begnaud II of Broussard and Rene Romero Jr. of New Iberia. Begnaud was 27 and Romero was 41. Both men leave behind families who were desperately hoping their loved one would emerge unharmed as their 16 coworkers did.

Funeral Services for Lance Begnaud II will be held Saturday. You can read about it by clicking here.

Funeral Services for Rene Romer Jr. will be held on Tuesday. You can read about his by clicking here.

The two days of around-the-clock rescue efforts ended with the worst news Wednesday morning. Rene Romero Jr. was found dead hundreds of feet below ground Tuesday evening. “Lil Rene,” as family called him, was 41 and lived in New Iberia. His mother and father told loved ones “It’s so hard.” Romero leaves behind a wife and child.

Rene Romero Jr.

His coworker, Lance Begnaud Jr., was pronounced dead Monday night. Begnaud was 27 and from Broussard. He had just started working at the Cargill salt mine as a production assistant in July.

Coworkers took to his Facebook page in memoriam describing him as tough, funny, and ambitious, but more than anything else, a family man. Begnaud had just married the love of his life last year. At the time he said, “And to think I get to walk a lifetime with you by my side!”

His wife, Alexandra, is expecting to have their newborn baby next week after his funeral. She posted this on Facebook Tuesday night.

I just want to thank everyone for all the love, support, comfort and prayers at this time! As we are torn into pieces and our hearts are shattered and lost for words, we are trying to keep the faith within us! My dear husband will be missed so so so very much by everyone! Again, thank you to everyone!

Lance Begnaud Jr.

Cargill says they are still investigating the cause of the roof collapse in the salt mine.

We have recently learned that the mine safety and health administration has issued several citations here recently.

In the last year, citations and fines were issued for not properly securing unattended mining equipment, not maintaining two way communication systems for underground workers, and not properly halting other activities during blasting operations.

In November, 2019 Cargill was also cited for improper maintenance of escape routes.

A spokesperson for Cargill says there’s no indication that the roof collapse in the salt mine is related to an inspection issued identified in these recent citations.

Read the company’s latest statement below:

On Tuesday evening, the rescue team recovered the second of the two missing miners who was also fatally injured in the accident at our Avery Island mine. Our hearts are broken for our colleagues and their families. To respect their privacy, we will not be sharing further details about the employees at this time. We continue to offer both families support and extend our deepest condolences for their loss.

We care about our teammates and have professional grief counselors on site at our facility who will be available to our team as needed. The safety and well-being of our colleagues is our top priority. We are grieving with the community as we face this loss together.

As rescue efforts have concluded, we now focus on completing our investigation in coordination with the Mine Health and Safety Administration to better understand what caused the accident. We are committed to learning from this tragedy and remain unwavering in our dedication to safe operations.

Daniel Sullivan
Media Relations Director – Cargill Protein and Animal Health

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