Pa. man charged with pushing friend into coal mine
By Michael Rubinkam
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A man who called 911 after his friend survived a 500-foot fall at a strip mine was charged Monday with pushing him over the edge.
While Nathan Bowman recovered from broken bones and other injuries in a hospital, Richard D. George was sent to Schuylkill County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail.
Authorities said in court documents that George, after telling a story that didn’t add up, admitted under questioning that he pushed Bowman into the canyon-shaped mine about 1 a.m. Friday after they got into an argument.
George was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and other offenses. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney.
Police said the 23-year-olds were trespassing on coal company property when George pushed Bowman off a sheer cliff.
Bowman, of Tamaqua, broke his collarbone and tailbone and suffered injuries to his wrist and ankle when he went over the side of the Springdale Pit, an inactive coal mine about 700 feet deep, 3,000 feet long and 1,500 feet wide.
In a phone interview with The Associated Press on Monday, before George was charged, Bowman said he didn’t remember much about the ordeal.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone who rescued me," a groggy-sounding Bowman said from his hospital bed.
Asked how he’s doing, he said, "I’m still alive." He added that he’s in a lot of pain.
George called 911 and initially claimed that another man had come running out of the mine and "hollered, as he ran by, that someone fell into the pit," according to an affidavit of probable cause. George later admitted pushing Bowman, authorities said.
State police used a helicopter, floodlights and thermal imaging to try to pinpoint Bowman’s location in the pit, about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia, but could not find him in the darkness and called off the search at daybreak, authorities have said.
A short time later, an employee with the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co., which owns the Springdale Pit, and Coaldale police went back to the spot where Bowman was believed to have fallen and heard him yelling for help.
Two firefighters rappelled to Bowman’s location and loaded him onto a basket, and then all three were hoisted out.
While Bowman said he can’t recall anything about his tumble, he does remember seeing the police helicopter overhead. He said he might have lost consciousness at some point.
Bowman declined to say why he and George were at the mine so early in the morning. Police have said Bowman faces a trespassing charge.