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US Miners in Good Condition After Unusual Rescue - 2002-07-28

A miraculous rescue in Pennsylvania brought nine men out of the Quecreek Mine in Western Pennsylvania in relatively good condition after being trapped underground for 77 hours.

The miners' ordeal began late Wednesday when they accidentally broke into an abandoned, water-filled mine. Maps showed the water-filled mine to be 91 meters from where they were working.

As much as 230 million liters of water rushed into their mineshaft 73 meters underground. The miners were able to warn a second crew that managed to escape.

As rescue crews worked feverishly on the ground above, the trapped miners stood almost the entire time in about a meter of water.

Dave Lauriski of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration says the miners went through most of the ordeal in total darkness.

"If you have never experienced darkness, when you go in a mine turn your light off," he said. "That is total darkness. And these folks probably did that for the better part of 77 hours," he said.

The first attempt to drill the miners out failed when the drill bit hit a heavy rock and broke. Rescuers then waited 18 hours for a second drill rig to be brought to the scene.

Just after midnight Sunday, the first miner was pulled out of the mineshaft. "The emotions were jumping outside of me and everyone else," said Kevin Strickland, one of the rescuers. "Everyone was just so excited when we knew we had nine survivors."

Doctors say what probably kept the men alive was the 38-degree centigrade air rescuers pumped to them before they were sure anyone was alive.

Most of the miners were in good condition, some having suffered only slight hypothermia.