The smoldering fire broke out about 1,400 feet from the tunnel’s bottom and was reported around 2 p.m., authorities said. Four RPI workers escaped from the tunnel and were treated at a hospital and released. Five others scrambled about 1,000 feet above the fire but were trapped by smoke and the steep, nearly impossible-to-climb slope at a spot where the tunnel bends from a 15-degree angle to a 55-degree one, Nay said. Officials dropped a radio to the workers, who reported around 2:40 p.m. that they were uninjured, but that may have been the last contact rescuers had with them, Nay said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! GEORGETOWN, Colo. – When fire broke out deep underground at a hydroelectric plant in the Rockies, officials at the surface dropped a radio down to five trapped men in a tunnel and were relieved to learn they were OK. But by the time emergency crews reached them six hours later, they were dead. On Wednesday, a day after the tragedy more than 1,500 feet underground at Xcel Corp.’s Cabin Creek power plant, investigators struggled to figure out what went wrong. Crews began to remove the workers’ bodies. It was unclear whether the five maintenance workers were burned, suffocated or overcome by fumes from the highly flammable epoxy sealant they were using to coat the inside of the empty, 12-foot-wide water pipeline. Authorities defended their rescue efforts, saying smoke, the complexities of the 4,000-foot tunnel’s design and uncertainties about the dangers prevented them from going in after the men for more than 3 hours after the blaze broke out. “We didn’t know what was causing the fire, what was feeding the fire,” Undersheriff Stu Nay said. “You never know, when you’re dealing with airflow and the intensity of the fire where we’re facing a backdraft situation, what we’re running into.” He added: “It’s dangerous work. We can’t afford to have someone else go in and complicate the problem.” The blaze erupted when a machine used by the workers to coat the tunnel caught fire, Xcel Energy spokeswoman Ethnie Groves said. But exactly what burned after – the machine, the epoxy or both – was unclear, she said. Nine employees of RPI Coating of Santa Fe Springs had been sealing the inside of the pipe to prevent corrosion, a routine procedure that followed an annual inspection. The tunnel delivers water from a reservoir to turbines that generate electricity at the plant 30 miles west of Denver.
Deep in the twilight zone of the ocean, small, glowing sharks have evolved special eye features to maximize the amount of light they see, researchers report this week in PLOS ONE. The scientists mapped the eye shape, structure, and retina cells of five deep-sea bioluminescent sharks, predators that live 200 to 1000 meters deep in the ocean, where light hardly penetrates. The sharks have developed many coping strategies. Their eyes possess a higher density of light-sensing cells known as rods than those of nonbioluminescent sharks, which might enable them to see fast-changing light patterns. Such ability would be particularly useful when the animals emit light to communicate with one another. Some species also have a gap between the lens and the iris to allow extra light in the retina, a feature previously unknown in sharks. In the eyes of lanternsharks, pictured above, the scientists discovered a translucent area in the upper socket. The researchers suspect this feature might help the sharks adjust their glow to match the sunlight for camouflage.