Gold Mining Adventure Brings Tragedy to one Family

5/19/2008 Madera County, CA It happened Saturday evening in the abandoned "Hildreth" mine shaft near O'Neals, that's in Madera County east of Coarsegold.

Brothers David and Matthew Alison and their cousin Brannon Scharf knew every inch of their family's sprawling cattle ranch in O'Neals, California. It had been their childhood playground.

Terry Alison, David and Matthew's father said, "They've been on this ranch since they were babies." But only recently did they realize the small tunnels they used to explore as kids could be hiding undiscovered gold.

Matthew's girlfriend said, "Yeah, they wanted to find gold but it wasn't gold fever, it was more of an adventure, just them being together."

David, Matthew, and Brannon had been pumping water out of one of the property's 6 mines Saturday with a gas powered pump.

Terry Alison said, "And I guess in the process they were going down searching for gold and didn't realize that they had filled the mine with carbon monoxide."

Alison described the horror of finding his two sons and nephew near the mouth of the mine. "They were just all intertwined on each other. I hugged them and they were just covered with mud from head to toe from struggling to get out of there."

Relatives believe David went in and that the other two followed when he never came out.

Brannon's mother said, "There's no way one would have left the other down there. They had a deep bond and love for each other."

Michelle Arvance, David and Matthew's sister said, "I really don't think they thought anything would happen to them."

Brannon's mother said she and Brannon's co-workers had all warned him about the dangers in these old abandoned dungeons. "I told him not to go in. I warned him and I warned him and I warned him."

Autopsy results on all three men are expected on Tuesday.

Terry Alison has vowed to shut down the mines on his property once and for all hoping no other family will have to endure the pain his family is going through.

Donations for Family of the Mining Accident Victims:
Alison Family Fund
United Local Credit Union
Ashlan & Millbrook

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