Search for Gold May Have Killed Three Men

5/18/2008 Madera County, CA Three men were found dead in a Madera County mine. A new gold rush has started and it may be what led them to their deaths.

The victims are David and Matthew Alison, of Prather, and Brannon Scharf, of Madera. The men turned up dead in an abandoned gold mine in O'Neals, just east of Coarsegold.

Investigators said the allure of gold that was once found in the mines led to the death of the three men. Now investigators are trying to figure out if carbon monoxide from a nearby generator was the culprit.

Behind a white pickup truck and yellow tape is the old Hildreth mine that was once full of gold. The promises of riches lead thousands to this area during California's gold rush.

Saturday night three young men looking to turn gold into extra money during these hard economic times were found dead inside the mine.

Tim Roche and his wife were on their way home late Saturday night when they spotted his neighbor looking for two of his sons and a friend. They started pumping water out of the mine a day earlier.

Roche said his wife descended into the mine 20 feet before discovering all three men dead.

Search and rescue teams made their way deep into the foothills. Karen Guillemin with Cal-Fire said most of these mines are full of water which is why the three men were using a water pump to get deep inside the mine. Guillemin believes carbon monoxide killed them.

"With the gasoline powered pump that was in the mine that they were using to pump the water out of, that's a possibility," said Karen Guillemin with Madera County Cal-Fire.

Roche's wife told Action News when she went down to look for the men she found them close together.

Investigators are waiting for autopsy results to determine the exact cause of death. Also an official with the Sheriff's Department told Action News this is the first death on record in this area dating back to the early 1900's.

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