By: Harleigh Hanes
Imagine being trapped 240 feet under ground for 77 hours in cold damp darkness. This is what nine miners experienced during the Quecreek mine inundation. Even before they became trapped, the mine was a popular place. Then, the tragedy happened, and the mine gained even more popularity, however not in a positive way. After the inundation and rescue, Somerset County made the mine location a historical site for anyone to visit and honor the miners. Although the collapse was very scary, all nine miners were rescued, and the mine site is now a historical landmark visited by many.
The Quecreek No. 1 mine inundation was an accident caused by men just doing their job. The accident occurred around 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24, 2002. The 18 miners drilled into a fifty year old mine shaft, Saxton Mine, that was incorrectly marked on a map. When the Saxton shaft was ruptured, water flooded the new mine within minutes. The first team of miners was able to warn the other team of the oncoming danger while they waded in neck high water (www.wsws.org).
The nine men: Randall Fogle, Harry Mayhugh, Jr., Thomas Foy, John Unger, John Phillippi, Ron Hileman, Dennis Hall, Robert Pugh, Jr., and Mark Popernack were trapped in the mine with water shooting out of the drilled hole. They were able to stay relatively safe in an area that was 3 feet high and 12 feet wide, 300 feet below ground and 8,000 feet away from the mine’s entrance and safety (www.wsws.org). From that point forward, time was racing to save the men, a rescue no one thought could happen.
The men who were able to safely escape the mine immediately called several mine rescue teams to inform them of the nine who were still trapped. There was no communication between the miners and people above, so the rescue team had no way of knowing if the nine men were still alive, and the miners had no idea people were trying to save their lives. After looking at the elevation and layout of the mine the rescue team was able to formulate a rescue plan in the only place possible for the miners to still be alive (Nine Quecreek..., 5).
The main concern was pumping the water out. But first the rescue team needed to drill a hole into the ground where they thought was the best possible place for air, heat, and to keep the rising water at bay. Placing the drill on top of the miners was the key to the whole rescue mission (Nine Quecreek..., 5). The water was pumped into a nearby creek as fast as 15,000 gallons per minute (www.roadsideamerica.com). Once the water was under control, but still being pumped out, the rescue team was able to proceed with drilling two large rescue shafts to double their chances of success (Nine Quecreek..., 5).
The drill went through such hard rock that it broke while digging for rescue shaft one’s entrance. After being fixed, it finished drilling and opened the ground for rescue shaft one to enter. On July 27, 2002, the first communication was made through a two-way radio when they heard one of the miners say, “There’s nine men ready to get the hell out of here.” (Nine Quecreek…, 5) On July 28, 2002, all nine men were retrieved safely through large metal capsules (Nine Quecreek..., 5).
There is now another Quecreek mine operating near where the original one was located. There still is water being pumped out of the mine to this day. The Quecreek Mine Rescue Memorial - Monument for Life honors the rescue teams that saved the nine men from death. It also honors the nine men who spent 77 hours in the crammed, wet darkness. The memorial is located where the miners were rescued on Dormel Farms owned by William Arnold. It consists of the shaft where the miners were rescued and a seven foot tall bronze statue of a miner at the entrance. This rescue story captured the hearts of millions of people worldwide, and now thousands of people visit this historical site each year. Since this has been such a touching memorial, the Arnold family is making it a permanent tribute. Monument for Life will be the largest permanent tribute to America’s rescue workers (www.quecreekrescue.org).
In conclusion, this mine accident did help prevent this type of accident from happening again. It also aided in the improvement of mine safety. From the genius minds above ground to the brave men below, this accident and rescue is a part of history. Thanks to the teamwork of everyone involved, the miners were able to live another day. Although this mine inundation was very scary at the time, nine men were able to come out safe and alive.
"About The Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation." Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2002. <###a href="http://www.quecreekrescue.org/foundation.php">http://www.quecreekrescue.org/foundation.php>.
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