Coal Mine Rescue: Quecreek Mine

(Coal Mine Rescue: Quecreek Mine) Nine Pennsylvania miners were trapped in an underground chamber on Wednesday (July 24, 2002) when they accidentally broke through into an adjacent abandoned mining shaft. The miners were excavating bituminous coal in the Quecreek mine. At the time of the accident they were a mile and half from the mine entrance.

The shaft that they broke into had been abandoned since the late 1950's and had been since flooded with water. When the walls of the shaft were compromised 60 million gallons of water rushed into the mine shaft, forcing the miners into the underground chamber.

The Coal Mine Rescue

There were no signs of life from below of any kind for the next two and a half days. As each attempt to reach the miners failed, fears about the miners general welfare continued to increase.

Saturday night at 10:15 the emergency mine rescue crews reached the flooded shaft. They dropped a telephone line into the chamber and discovered that all nine miners were alive and in reasonably good condition. The rescue crews quickly created an air line to send compressed air down into the chamber and started pumping out the water through several new pumping rigs.

When the rescuers were finally able to get to the chamber, they used a yellow rescue cage (22-inch wide, 100-inch long) to send down food, water, blankets and lights. The last miner to emere from the underground chamber was Mark Popernack.

He arrived at the surface at 2:45 a.m. with a big smile and a thumbs up sign. After being trapped for 77 hours this was quite a celebration.

The miners all appeared to be in attentive and in good spirits, although after 77 hours of in the cold chamber in 50 degree water, they were suffering from hypothermia and core body temperatures that were 10 -15 degrees lower than normal.

The Yellow Rescue Cage

The final dramatic rescue of all nine miners relied on the 22"x100" yellow cage. This narrow cage was used to lift each miner, one by one, up the rescue shaft. This same rescue cage has now become a symbol of what has become perhaps the most dramatic mine rescue of American history.

The controversy of who will get to retain and preserve this symbol now lies between one of the greatest American museums, the Smithsonian Institute, and the local town museum, the Windber Coal Heritage Center. The Windber Coal Heritage Center was created to preserve the history of the depressed former min company town. The Smithsonian seeks to add the capsule to its American History Collection.




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