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Mother of missing Boone County man searching for answers

The mother of missing man, Wes Blackburn, who was thought to be trapped in an abandoned Boone County mine, is holding out hope that her son will be found safe. (WCHS/WVAH)

The mother of a man who was thought to be trapped in a former Boone County mine was there with the rescue team all day waiting to see her son walk out of the mine, but that never happened.

“You don’t know if he’s dead or alive, that’s the hardest part,” said Joane Short, the mother of Wes Blackburn.

A rescue team spent six hours in Lightfoot No. 1 Blackhawk Mine near Wharton Thursday searching for Blackburn, 38, of Oceana, who is suspected of stealing copper and is being sought by law enforcement.

It’s been four days since Short last saw her son.

“Tuesday, I got texts telling me that he was stuck in the mines. That one boy had went to jail and that he had went back in the mines,” Short said.

The man she is referring to is Gary Gibson, who was arrested on Monday at the entrance of the Blackhawk Mine on breaking and entering and conspiracy charges. Gibson was arrested along with Amanda Pennington, who told deputies she was only there to pick up Gibson and Blackburn who were believed to have been taking copper.

Deputies found evidence that concrete had been chipped away from the Blackhawk Mine entrance, a mine that has been closed and sealed for 20 years.

“It’s been cold for days so I assumed he would stay in there to stay warm,” Department of Commerce Marketing Communications Director Samantha Smith said.

That sparked the risky search by the West Virginia Rescue Mine Team.

"In a situation like that there could be roof falls, toxic levels of gas, water, flooding, a number of risks are involved in sending a team in,” Smith said.

Short said her biggest fear is that someone has harmed her son, but she is hoping to soon be able to tell her 14-year-old grandson that his dad was found safe.

“We all love him very much and despite what he does, I still want to see him come home you know and let us know that he’s OK and call me or his brother Michael so we can let his son know that he’s OK,” Short said.

Stay tuned to Eyewitness News for updates on this story.

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