PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – In 2002, what started out as a disaster became a miracle when nine coal miners were rescued in Somerset. They had been trapped for 77 hours underground at the Quecreek Mine.
Former Gov. Mark Schweiker was in office during the time and joined the “KDKA Morning News” to reflect on the 15th anniversary of the dramatic rescue this Friday.
The crew was working when they broke through an abandoned mine that was full of water, which flooded out and trapped the nine men in an air pocket 24 stories underground.
Schweiker says he was on vacation when he got the call that an accident had occurred at the mine and immediately headed to the site to oversee the situation.
“It was all hands on deck…It was 75 hours of hell and anxiety and with divine province we managed to find them, bring them up,” said Schweiker.
Originally, 18 miners were underground during the time of the accident but nine were able to escape before being trapped.
Schweiker says they had to wait six hours before they found out the trapped miners had survived the initial disaster.
A 6-inch wide air shaft was drilled and before they turned the air compressor on, Gov. Schweiker says, “The miners tapped on that pipe nine times, which in miner’s code is ‘Hey, there are nine of us down here.’ And that’s all we needed, so we [went] from there.”
Gov. Schweiker says it was a relief when he saw the first miner coming up after rescuers had labored for 70 straight hours.
“Mine accidents often don’t pan out this way, most [miners] die,” said Schweiker.
Schweiker says the Quecreek Mine rescue is, “Essentially [the] story of reuniting nine families with their hard working husband trapped below.”
Schweiker will speak at the site Thursday and will also meet with the families and rescuers involved in the rescue.
Listen to the “KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.