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Alive: Rescue at Quecreek

Aired July 28, 2002 - 22:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

This was the scene of the dramatic rescue as it went out over live television. Nine men trapped deep below the earth's surface for three days. Consider the conditions. Rising floodwaters all around, no food, contaminated water, darkness and no clear understanding of the rescue operations going on above. Fatigue and fear could easily be their worst enemy. Their weapons? Unity and leadership.

Welcome to CNN's special report, "Rescue at Quecreek."

And also joining me tonight near the scene of that rescue operation, Bill Hemmer, who's out in the field in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

Good evening, Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good evening to you from southwestern Pennsylvania, boy, what more can you say? Tonight, nine miners, very tired miners we're told, but nonetheless nine miners recovering after 77 hours below the earth's surface. And wow, we have our tour de force out here tonight in southwestern Pennsylvania, Jeff Flock and Brian Palmer with me as well.

I know you guys have been here from the very beginning. And I keep saying wow, because that's the word I come back to the entire time, Jeff.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was an amazing experience when that started to unfold last night, because as we were talking, very few people in that room of cynical reporters were thinking it was coming out that way. And today, I'm picturing a cartoon with Uncle Sam looking at miners coming up out of the hole, saying, thanks, I needed that.

HEMMER: Oh, that is so true. Brian, quick impression?

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, those first 77 hours, I mean, we felt every single minute of it. And after the rescue, after 1:00 a.m., it's all sort of flown by. Six of the miners are already out of the hospital. And they're with their families. So it's been pretty amazing to cover this.

HEMMER: And amazing that we can actually report on the story that has a good and happy ending.

PALMER: Oh, boy.

HEMMER: To a lot of stories tonight.

Here's one for you, Carol. Quickly, Robert Pugh, one of the nine miners, talked with his sister, Barbara, earlier tonight. The Pughs have a family reunion every year, was scheduled yesterday. 42 family members got together at the fire house up the road here in southwestern Pennsylvania to watch the recovery effort. At the end of the day, they got that enormous, many people call it miraculous, an enormous payoff. And Robert Pugh, Barbara's brother, did not go to bed last night, wanted to stay up this morning to see the daylight break here in Pennsylvania. He says after 3.5 days of being in the darkness, he wanted to make sure that the sun was coming up this Sunday morning. They had a big party for him, corn on the cob, his favorite, apparently. Also serving coconut cream pie. And again, Carol, just one of many countless stories here in Pennsylvania. We'll have them for you throughout the hour.

Back to you.

LIN: Yes, so many great stories, Bill. One of the miners saying even superstitiously that it was the only day that he had left the house without kissing his wife good-bye.


LIN: I bet that's not going to happen again any time soon.

HEMMER: No, I can guarantee of that.

LIN: You're going to bring us his story, too.

HEMMER: That's right.

LIN: All right, yes, it was an amazing story to work from this end, too, unfolding over five hours last night.

Well, Bill, we want to take people back to the beginning. We want to begin with a look at the timeline. It ended happily, but it didn't begin that way. The story broke Wednesday evening. A team of miners are working below ground, when a wall collapses, sending nearly 60 million gallons of water rushing towards them. Nine men trapped 240 feet below the surface.


HEMMER: All right, let's get to Somerset, County right now.

First up, nine miners again trapped underground, the water rising, we are told in a collapsed coal mine near Somerset in southwestern Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very dark. It's probably very wet. And it -- the temperature is above 55 degrees. So we concerned about the folks getting hypothermia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...received no more tapping or any other indications about the miners, but obviously, we remain very optimistic.

MARK SCHWEIKER, GOV. PENNSYLVANIA: We've got at least 150 feet to go. We've quite a few hours in drilling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to succeed. I have good feelings about it. We're going to succeed.

SCHWEIKER: We have reached a critical phase. And how we apply ourselves now is quintessential to our success.

LIN: Yes, the drill has broken through. They made it through that final leg of six feet.

SCHWEIKER: We broke through down at 239.6. And it certainly is an encouraging development.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking news.

LIN: It is not often that we have the pleasure of bringing you good news on some breaking news stories, but this is good to report. All nine miners trapped a few days are still alive. A family member of one of the trapped men said Saturday. The relatives said they had been given the news by rescue workers who spoke to the trapped men in a communications device lowered down...

FLOCK: Look at the smile on Governor Schweiker. Let's listen to him.

SCHWEIKER: All men are alive.

LIN: Breaking news out of Somerset, Pennsylvania. We have just heard that the first of the surviving nine miners has just been pulled out and pulled to safety. Boy, they don't waste any time out there, do they, Jeff?

FLOCK: We have breaking news left and right here.

SCHWEIKER: I thought these things would only happen in the movies. Well, they've happened in Somerset, Somerset County, right here in Pennsylvania because of some doggest Pennsylvanians and helpful Americans.


LIN: It could easily have been Doug Custer confined in that mine. He was there when it collapsed, but he got out just in time, thanks to the warning prize from the miners who wound up trapped. Doug Custer joins us now to talk about the rescue of the men he now refers to as heroes.

Doug, it is so great to see you. You know, we kept talking about in the newsroom, it could have been him. It could have been him. Have you had a chance to talk to any of these guys since they got out of the hospital?

DOUG CUSTER, ESCAPED MINER: No, I haven't. I tried contacting them, but I'm sure there was a pact made underground that all the phones would be pulled out of the phone jacks. And there's no way that I could even possibly get a hold of him.

LIN: When you do get a hold of them, Doug, what are you going to tell them?

CUSTER: I'm going to tell them thank you. I owe my life to them. They're the heroes of the nation. They're the heroes of the nation right now.

LIN: Doug, it was -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

CUSTER: There was a miracle in the United States this weekend. And it was their part that made that a miracle.

LIN: Their story is a miracle, Doug. What happened that night in the mine on Wednesday? How did you know there was trouble? And how much time did you have to get out? And I apologize, I think we have a delay on the satellite system here.

CUSTER: The question was how did it happen? The -- I think the maps were wrong back in the olden days. I think that they were advanced further than what it showed. And the -- our mine was supposed to be within or around 500, 600 feet away from that area. And we just accidentally cut into it.

LIN: So the guys ahead of you, did they shout? How did they warn you and your group to get out?

CUSTER: We have a phone communication system inside the mine. It's by law. We need to have some sort of communication. And we keep our phones close to the section. And they phoned our section. And they just said get out. Water's on the way. So that's exactly what we did. We stopped what we were doing and bugged out.

LIN: Doug, at any point in your escape, did you think to yourself maybe I should stay? Maybe I can help these guys?

CUSTER: No, no, when we get an urgent call like that, we know what a prank call is and what an urgent call is. Whenever a call comes through like that, it's serious and you do what you're told.

LIN: So as the hours unfolded, you were able to escape. But you watched, I'm sure, as the nation and the world watched these painstaking rescue efforts over 77 hours. What was going through your minds?

CUSTER: Oh, man, what they were up against in there. You know, when we came out, you know, we waited around for them. And they just never came out. And we had to call the inspectors. And we knew it was something big. And I -- we knew they were wet and cold. We just didn't know exactly what happened or who got hurt or anything, but it was just painstakingly hard to do nothing. LIN: I think we all wonder, Doug, what we would do if we were in the same situation. And it is so touching to hear the stories of these miners and how at one point they thought it was over for them. And they shared a pen to write last messages to their families, but what a happy ending. We are so glad...


LIN: ...that you and your community, do you think you're going to back down in that mine someday?

CUSTER: According to my wife, no. But...

LIN: It might be good advice.

CUSTER: Yes, I don't know. I always try to listen to my wife, but I've been busted up and had some broken bones. And I just don't know. Coal miners have mining in their blood. And you know, right now, I probably don't have a job because of the water situation. And that means I'll have to go look for work that -- and around this area, work's hard to come by. And I just don't know.

LIN: Well, you've got a story to tell these days, Doug. We are so glad to see you doing well. And we thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CUSTER: OK, thank you.

LIN: Doug Custer, who survived.

Well, Doug Custer's story certainly tells us a lot about the character of the men who endured starvation, dehydration, the unknown. We have been hearing throughout the day that they were never really sure, 100 percent sure, that rescue was coming their way.

Bill Hemmer is in Somerset with one miner's story of survival.

Bill, we've just learned a lot from these men.

HEMMER: Yes. Yes, we sure do. And listening to your conversation with some of the miners from the second group. You know, keep in mind, Carol, there were these two groups below the earth. And one of them got out, as we just heard there.

But of the nine who were tucked away about 240 feet below the earth, Blaine Mayhugh is one gentleman who came out before the cameras several hours ago with this wife standing by his side. He started to relay his own experience as he waited down beneath the earth's surface. Let's listen to Blaine Mayhugh, one of the nine miners again now safe tonight and recovering.


BLAINE MAYHUGH, MINER: The third day around 12:00 noon, and the water started rising. And we was running out of room. So I asked the boss if he had a pen. And he knew what for. I says, "Well, I want to write my wife and kids, you know, to tell them I love them, and you know." So and then my father-in-law, he tied us all together, so we wouldn't float away from each other. And then the boss said, "Well, we got one more try. He said, "Number one entry's higher. So everybody, let's go there and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know.

And then we got there, and the water seemed like it stopped. And then for about a day and a half, it stayed at that level. And then we didn't know what to think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did you determine where efforts to rescue (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MAYHUGH: We heard the big drill on and off, but we thought maybe they couldn't find us or maybe they had broke down or we didn't know what to think. You had your high points and low points every day. I mean, like OK, it sounds good. And then at one time, the drill -- I think we timed it. It was like 16 hours we had never it run again. So we thought well maybe they gave up on this or something major happened. You know, we had no idea what to think.


MAYHUGH: Miracle, I mean. Between God and my wife and the kids, that's the only thing that got me through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in any sort of prayer down there?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you also started tapping on the drill when it came down?

MAYHUGH: When they first gave us the air shaft, six inch air shaft, we hit on that right away and we got a response. But it didn't go maybe an hour later and the water came up too high. And we had to get back out of there. So then we proceeded on beating on the roof back where we was, hoping they'd locate us over there, which we never -- your (UNINTELLIGIBLE) blast from up above, which we never heard.


MAYHUGH: Well, we was on dry, actually. We had maybe 50 feet by 20 feet compartment that was relatively -- I'm not going to say dry, but the bottom was moist and...


MAYHUGH: Snuggling each other, laying up against each other, sitting back to back to each other or anything to produce body heat, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) run home and watch channel 4?

MAYHUGH: Anything imaginable about your family, the last thing you said to your family, you know, before you left work -- for work that day. You know, and the only day in my life I never kissed my wife before I went to work. And that had to be the day there.


MAYHUGH: Everybody, everybody had strong moments. Any certain time, maybe one guy got down, and then the rest pulled together. And then that guy would get back up. And then maybe someone else would feel a little weaker, but it was a team effort. That's the only way it could've been.


HEMMER: Harry Mayhugh, friends and family call him Blaine, but you can call him one lucky man tonight. One of the miner nine here in Somerset, Pennsylvania, resting comfortably this evening.

Carol, two things that you will hear immediately upon arrival in Somerset as to why this thing worked. And as we go into days forward, this will be dissected many times.

One is the water level. It was so critical throughout the entire ordeal. And the other thing that was quite critical, when you're talking to people up here, is that six inch pipe that was later lowered into the section where the nine miners were resting and trying to find higher ground away from the water. That pipe pumped hot air and oxygen, well over 100 degrees, we are told to make sure that these men can gain some sort of comfort below the earth.

We're going to talk with Jeff Flock once again. And those are the two factors that people talk about. Why did it work, Jeff?

FLOCK: That was very key because number one, they got it down there quick. And they needed to get it in there because of course, they would have had not enough to air to breathe. And it also kept them warm. The doctors we talked to at the hospital said if you don't keep them warm, they really have a hypothermia problem. And none of them did after three days under there. So that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

And you talk about luck, what they did, they didn't know. They didn't know where they were, but they thought we got a flood in the mine. Where did they go? They go to higher ground. So OK, they get the GPS out. They take a look. OK, where's the highest ground that they could go to? Here it is. OK, let's put the hole down. They GPS it out. They find the spot. They go down with the hole. Miraculously, when they tap on the pipe, there they are. The other thing that you learn now from the miners after they got back to the surface, we thought they were in a very, very confined space with water up in it. Well, as it turns out, it was, in fact, four feet high. They pretty well knew that, but it was about 18 feet wide, maybe 70 foot long. So they had quite a bit of space to work around in there. And they could get out of the water.

You know, they came up soaking wet. It wasn't because they'd been soaked the whole time. They got wet at the beginning. They were up to their noses, we were told, but then when they got -- eventually after they got it, they got to the higher ground and they stayed dry pretty much the whole time. They were damp. You know, it's damp in a mine, in a spiffy 560 degrees, but they dried out. Then when they came up in the bucket, apparently because they had just drilled through down, there was a lot of water running through there. So that's how they got wet, only in the ride up. So it wasn't as bad for them as we thought, not that it was a picnic down, you know, 240 feet down under the earth.

HEMMER: Yes, you know, if we go back to the early morning hours of Friday, there was a lot of lost hope, I felt, when that drill bit broke.


HEMMER: Well the governor of Pennsylvania is now saying maybe that was a blessing in disguise, because the machinery, when it failed, prevented them from drilling deeper, had they continued to go, he offers the possibility that they may have breached the area where the miners were without enough water being pumped out at the time, than possibility of a major catastrophe.

FLOCK: Again, it was that coke bottle thing, where you know, you've got this bubble and you need to maintain that bubble. If you punch through to that bubble...

HEMMER: That's right.

FLOCK: ...the water comes up into the vacuum, and perhaps drowns those guys. I mean that would've been the worst tragedy if they had survived all this time, and then the rescue effort had killed them. That would've been terrible.

HEMMER: Yes. I was talking with the rescue workers just about an hour ago. They say they're still pumping water from out of there. They said 50 million gallons, and it's still coming out, too.

FLOCK: Exactly.

HEMMER: So Jeff, thanks.

FLOCK: OK, Bill.

HEMMER: We're going to get more of your impressions a bit later here.

FLOCK: Appreciate it.

HEMMER: In Somerset, Pennsylvania. Brian Palmer up next here on the emotions, the emotions of a miracle. Back in a moment with more after this.


HEMMER: Well, the attention of a country is truly focused tonight on the heroic act that was performed here in Somerset, Pennsylvania. The rescue workers who literally worked day and not, non-stop for 3.5 days, trying to rescue and eventually save those nine miners trapped 240 feet below the earth. Talked with a member of the Pugh family, Robert Pugh's family earlier tonight. And the sister of Robert Pugh, Barbara said her brother left the house about an hour ago. He's gone to a place, I'm not going to tell you where he went because he's sleeping. The man is tired, but he looks good. That's the word from the Pugh house tonight.

Let's bring in Brian Palmer again, who was here. You get a kick out of that one.

PALMER: Indeed.

HEMMER: Who's been here from the very beginning in southwestern Pennsylvania. And talk a little bit about the emotion, the ups and the downs, the roller coaster ride that really everybody has felt here for the past four days.

PALMER: Well, Bill, we have been talking to folks over the past four days. As I said, those first 77 hours, we felt every minute of that, but there was tremendous optimism. Folks who are local folks are telling us, you know, tend to be a laconic group of people, but there were moments, I think the people were sagging, but there were never, ever any major dips. I think people had faith in the rescuers, in the 200 some odd people who gathered. They also had quite a bit of faith in each other. And they managed to keep the faith. That, I found fairly amazing, Bill.;

HEMMER: It was about this time last night, about 24 hours ago when the governor came out and gave everybody the sense that truly they had made contact with the nine men and they were alive.

PALMER: Indeed. I mean, it has been a tremendous period since 1:00 a.m. last night, the six miners out of the nine are out of the hospital. And it's been just such an amazing day. And I think also that people are going to be looking at this mine rescue and taking lessons from this rescue for some time to come.


PALMER (voice-over): The nine coal miners emerged cold, wet, hungry and weak, but they emerged alive. After the three day ordeal, Blaine Mayhugh described how he, his father-in-law and 17 members survived.

MAYHUGH: ...he tied us all together, so we wouldn't float away from each other. And then the boss said, "Well, we got one more try." He said, "Number one entry's higher. So everybody, let's go there and give that a shot, you know.

And then we got there, and the water seemed like it stopped. And then for about a day and a half, it stayed at that level. And then we didn't know what to think.

RUSSELL DUMIRE, DR. CONEMAUGH MEMORIAL: These guys, they were professionals. They were ready for the environment. They were dressed appropriately. They were protected appropriately. And they had a whole lot of good people on top, working to get them out as quickly as possible. So they're outcome was much better than the usual entrapped cave and trauma patient.

PALMER: As the miners huddled together below, rescuers above struggled to reach them. Volunteer fire chief Mark Zambanini was a first responder.

MARK ZAMBANINI, VOLUNTEER FIRE CHIEF: It went from my worst nightmare to probably the best thing that's ever going to happen in my career as a volunteer firefighter.

PALMER: The community of Somerset did its part, supporting the rescue and keeping the faith.

LESLIE MAYHUGH, WIFE: I just kept praying and I had good beliefs. And I knew that he was going to get through. I knew I couldn't lose my dad and my husband. I just knew it. So it wasn't their day.

PALMER: That optimism and hope and the effort of more than 200 rescuers made those prayers come true.



PALMER: Bill, the folks from Somerset and the surrounding communities started to gather at the site of the rescue, just a few hours after it all happened. And they collected -- they already talked to one woman who said, listen, we don't always you know keep in touch with our neighbors. We might not see them for them two minutes, but when they need us, we're there. And that was very true here.

HEMMER: You know, going forward now, Brian, there's going to be a long, hard look, especially at the maps, maps that may have been outdated, steps that were taken in the wrong way. Everything came out OK in the end, but what's next for finding out what went wrong in the first place?

PALMER: We had a bit of a foretaste of that this morning from the folks from the Department of Environmental protection. They said, yes, there will be an investigation. First, we're going to let the miners recuperate, rest up. Then we're going to debrief them, find out what exactly happened. And then we're going to have to look at some of these issues. The question of the maps and all these other issues.

HEMMER: OK. Carol?

LIN: All right, thank you very much Brian and Bill out there. We'll be back to you, but Bill, just want to let you know, we've also got a way for our viewers to see video on demand of the dramatic rescue. You can go to to sign up for CNN news pass. You can watch video of the Quecreek mine rescue operation and see interviews with the miners and the rescuers. All right, coming up tonight, you're going to be hearing from the actual mine trainers, including one who trained this crew on how to survive. We'll be right back.


LIN: When the coal mine walls caved in Wednesday night, the trapped workers had one crucial thing in their favor, their safety training, which helped save their lives. And the man who gets some credit is Jerry Russell, the mine safety instructor. He actually trained the rescued miners last January. Mr. Russell joins us from Harrisburg, along with miner training program director, Mark Radomsky.

Good evening, gentlemen. Good to see you.

Well, Mr. Russell, let me ask you first. You must be very proud of this group of men. Do you think they responded to the training exactly as they were taught.

JERRY RUSSELL, MINE SAFETY INSTRUCTOR: I'm sure they did. I'm sure they took same things out of the class that they were able to use in that survival exercise that they went through, but I really also feel that since these folks were experienced miners, they had a long history of doing the right things at the right time. So it was a combination of these factors, which made it possible for them to be rescued.

LIN: What kind of scenario did you take them through before, that could have prepared them for anything like this?

RUSSELL: Well, it just so happens in an annual refresher training class, which is what I did for these folks back in the winter months. We did talk about the use of barricades. We did also talk about the use of the method which they had to use, the pounding on something solid to let others know that they were alive and let others know that they were responding to what was going on in the surface. So that...

LIN: All right, let me take -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

RUSSELL: Go ahead, that's fine.

LIN Well, I'm just wondering, too, because I want to take you back to a pretty critical moment when actually the wall caved in and this four foot high wall of water was rushing at them. Some 50 to 60 million gallons of water.


LIN: In a situation like that, what is it that you train them to do, in order for them to respond so quickly, and in order for them to find higher ground? Or was it just luck that they did?

RUSSELL: Really, I can't take any credit for that. I think that's just the instinct of being an experienced miner. That's what I think saved them, the fact that it is a very stressful job, a very strenuous job. The training issue there, I think it was there past experiences which helped them find the higher ground and of course come to safety.

LIN: You know, there was a point when these men got together and the water was rising around them. And they thought, you know what? This is. We're not going to be rescue in time. And the started writing notes to their families and even tying each other together, to make sure that they would be found as a group.

I'm wondering, as part of their training, you train them how to survive. Do you also train them to deal with the idea that they may not make it and to accept it at that point?

RUSSELL: No, that's not considered part of the training. We cover other areas of mine safety. We talk about the roof conditions. We talk about ventilation of the mine. We talk about the mine gases, which have unfortunately caused a lot of fatalities in the mine industry throughout the last century or so. Really, we do not touch on the business of what you just suggested.

LIN: Mr. Radomsky, I'm wondering as you look at this now, it's got to be some form of a case study. What is it that you've learned from this situation that you can use to pass on in training to others?

MARK RADOMSKY, PENN STATE UNIV.: Well, I think Carol that'll come out in the months ahead. They'll look in this situation and see what actually occurred, and then we'll use that information for case study exercises for training purposes.

LIN: So it's hard to even know where to begin, but at the same time, you're training them for a situation where even the map makers say the maps are not reliable. Nobody really knows exactly how many Quecreeks are out there, and that this could happen again. So you're training men essentially to find themselves in situations that are critical situations that are almost bound to happen again.

RADOMSKY: Well, that's correct. You have to train for the worst case scenarios. The question of the maps, we're hoping that they'll be some research there that perhaps they'll look at situations where mines are located next to abandoned works. And then perhaps try to verify that the map is accurate.

LIN: From your vantage point, I'm not sure if you can actually see the graphic we're about to put up, but we have some statistics on coal mining deaths since 1870. A total of some 51,000 coal miners have been lost in accidents. That's a lot over time. What sort of a record is that, do you think, for the industry?

RADOMSKY: What kind of a record is it?

LIN: Yes.

RADOMSKY: Well, mining is inherently dangerous, but over the years, with training and regulations and with technology, we have gotten safer and safer in the mining business. And we're certainly pleased with the progress that we've made. And certainly in mine rescue, and this situation demonstrates that. The rescue workers did an admirable job, a wonderful job. And there was a lot of team work and collaboration between the agencies. It's something to be very proud of.

LIN: Mr. Russell, getting back to the point of being proud of these men, you know them personally. What would you say about this particular group? What was it about them, just short of their training? Maybe something in their character that helped them along the way?

RUSSELL: Well, I can recall thinking back of the training. I can think how attentive they were in the class. They were very interested in what I was telling them. And many of our training sessions, we try to be interactive. In other words, I'm getting feedback from those folks in regards to the training. And that also stuck on my mind as well. It was a well managed group. And there was a lot of interaction with the group.

LIN: A lot of valedictorians in this group.

RUSSELL: That's right.

LIN: Thank you very much, Gerry Russell for joining us tonight, also Mark Radomsky. May this never happen again. Thank you.

RUSSELL: You're welcome.

LIN: Well, doctors say it's remarkable miners didn't have more injuries or more illnesses. Exposure to the water and coldness alone would have killed them, but six of them already have been released from the hospital.

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to talk more about how they survived. We've been talking a lot about a lot of their symptoms today, but we all got to talking in the newsroom and saying, well, let's use some reverse psychology here. Did the water play to their favor? You need water to survive. And here they are surrounded by it, ironically.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, well a couple of things. Certainly I think in this case, the water probably did not help them. There are cases where cold water might actually be advantageous, situations where, for instance, someone who is found at the bottom of a pool drowned. And they actually want to decrease their metabolism, slow the metabolism down, so as not to need oxygen as much.

In this case, these guys wanted to maintain the metabolism, maintain their body heat. They were in cold water. They were still able to breathe. So the water probably did not help them. Also, just the cold air around them also added to their hypothermia. So the conditions as one of the doctors put it, very threatening sort of all around.

LIN: But I thought cold temperatures conserved energy. It slowed down your body system so that you would burn less fuel and be able to conserve your energy in a crisis.

GUPTA: Right. Certainly over time, perhaps, long periods of time, people will actually be able to slow their metabolism down and might be able to help conserve energy, if that was the goal. In this case, the goal is really to try and stay warm more than anything else. In that case, they need to be able to generate the body heat, because they're not getting heat from anywhere else. They did have some of that pressurized air being blown down into the mine, but they really needed to have their metabolism revved up, maintain the body heat, because that was the key for survival for them.

LIN: So surrounded by water, but they couldn't drink the water because it was polluted with coal residue and other toxic chemicals?

GUPTA: That's right. I understand it was undrinkable.

LIN: Undrinkable water. So how long could these guys have gone without water or food?

GUPTA: Well, that's a very interesting question. We actually did a little bit or research into that. And the longest someone has actually survived was actually after a Korean mall collapse, where a woman was supposedly survived for 12 to 13 days without any water. That certainly, Carol, is at the far end of things.

Usually a few days, five, six days, is how long people can survive without any water. Food, you can go much longer without, if you have water, but you know, 77 hours, they're getting kind of close to the dehydration point here. I think all the guys were dehydrated by the time they got to the surface, had gone much longer, you'd start to get other sort of symptoms. Your organs would start to shut down. Your heart might not work well.

One of the guys did have heard troubles. Maybe that was an early sign of dehydration. And then suddenly, you lapse in unconsciousness and perhaps death. And 77 hours is cutting it pretty close.

LIN: But they made it out alive.


LIN: Thank you so much, Sanjay. Always good to hear from you.

Well coming up, you're going to be actually hearing more from one of the surviving miners. Blaine Mayhugh, who describes the ordeal down there in ways that are so colorful and so real and so personal. That's coming up.


LIN: Welcome back to our special coverage of the rescue at the Quecreek mine. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center.

And now to my co-anchor tonight, Bill Hemmer, who's out in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Bill? HEMMER: Great to be with you, Carol. Good evening again here in southwestern Pennsylvania. You know, this part of the country was hit so hard and touched so close by the events of September 11. In fact, United Airlines flight 93 went down in a field here in Pennsylvania, just 10 miles to the east of our location. And it was several hours ago today on Sunday afternoon, where the local people were allowed to actually go up to the site where the mining was being done and the rescue operation was carried out late last night, so they could have a look at it.

I talked with a handful of them a short time ago. They say, you know, after September 11 and knowing that Somerset County is so prominent now in the minds of so many Americans, it is good, they say, that very good and very fortunate news can come out in this part of the country for a change.

I went to bring Jeff Flock back in on this one again. And you know, one thing that was said up here, and you were telling me about it, there was a live feed that was essentially established so that the family members from a local fire house could watch the rescue effort in progress, right?

FLOCK: Right, because originally we'd asked for a live picture out at the site. They said no because of the concern that bodies might be coming up at some point. They changed their mind when it went the other way. They called the families and said that the families were clamoring to see it. They called the families and said, "Can we give it to the rest of the world?" They said OK.


FLOCK: And you know, permit me to feel good for a moment about what it is you and I do, but one of the great things about television, I think, is that it, you know, it provides that commonality of experience. I mean, it brings people together sometimes in bad times, sometimes in good times. But last night, starting right at about this hour, is when it all started to unfold. And we started to get the sense this was real good news. And then to watch all of that happen live and before our eyes was really a great...

HEMMER: I get goosebumps when I hear those stories. I really do. It sends chills through me. And I know everybody else has -- shares that similar reaction, I think.

FLOCK: No, I haven't smiled this much on a story in a long time.

HEMMER: Isn't it the truth? And I think even people watching this who say that I'd go so far as to say, Jeff, you know, lately, we've been reporting on so much bad stuff. You know, child abduction cases. Five-year old girl is missing and killed and you know, the worries on Wall Street and corporate corruption and the war on terror that's been going on now for the better part of 10 months, to be out here for a change and say, you know what, we've got a happy ending now.

FLOCK: And you know, the thing is, you know, it used to be just reporters were cynics. Because you know what? One of the reasons we had a lot of information. And sometimes too much information makes you cynical. And you think you start to know too much. I mean, or we know they're not going to find those guys, because we know we know.

And now the whole world is better informed. They're all -- the whole world is full of reporters now. They know a whole lot of stuff. And I think it's a nation of cynical folks that maybe think we know this isn't going to fly, but of course, it flew.

HEMMER: You know, the other thing, though, if you talk to people who have been around coal mining for years, they'll say many times when you have operations like these, they are unsuccessful. And they do not turn out this way. And you pointed out in your piece a short time ago, 1972 was the last successful rescue with that cage that they used.

FLOCK: Yes, exactly. And you know, I had a guy last night, after me talking about my cynicism on the air from "The Coal News," which is an industry publication, who the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who came up. And he gave me a copy of "The Coal News," which was their coverage of the mine rescue contest of 2002, where they -- you know, they compete on this. They train on this.

HEMMER: Right.

FLOCK: And they know that these guys know what to do in that sort of situation. You get flood in the mine, you go to high ground. And that's what they did. And that's what of course worked.

HEMMER: That's right. We've been talking a lot about Blaine Mayhugh, because he made himself very public earlier today. And you talked about that live feed. He said when he was down below the earth that he was not aware, obviously, that the attention was getting all focused here in Pennsylvania. He said maybe the local news up in Pittsburgh might pick up our story, but beyond that, he didn't give it much thought.

Here's Blaine Mayhugh again earlier today with his wife, talking about one moment where he asked for a pen from his father-in-law to write a letter. Here's Blaine.


BLAINE MAYHUGH, MINER: ...and the water started rising. And we was running out of room. So I asked the boss if he had a pen. And he knew what for. I says, "Well, I want to write my wife and kids, you know, to tell them I love them, and you know."

LESLIE MAYHUGH, WIFE: Kept praying and I had good beliefs. And I knew that he was going get through. I knew I couldn't lose my dad and my husband. I just knew it. So it wasn't their day.


HEMMER: Earlier, Blaine had said that when he left for work last Wednesday, it was one of the few times he's ever left home without kissing his wife. And you can listen to his words and hear the expression in their own hearts that it's a different house now.

We're back with more in Somerset, Pennsylvania. The fire chief here, who was out at this site from the very beginning will join us on his impressions and thoughts as we look back again.

Back with more after this.


LIN: Many of the nearly 200 rescue workers never actually left the site. And they refused to sleep until these miners were pulled out alive. And at times, fate seemed to conspire to break their spirits with delays and doubts.

Jim Clark joins us now to recount the desperate ordeal. He is the fire chief of the Somerset fire department.

Chief, we understand that you stood vigil right along next to all of your men out there, out at that drill site for days.

JIM CLARK, SOMERSET FIRE CHIEF: That's correct, Carol. Yes, we did.

LIN: What was that like when those men started coming up late last night, one by one?

CLARK: The joy was overwhelming. It was such a relief. It was something that we prepared for. And from the very beginning, all the rescue workers were out there. We had faith that this would happen. And we needed some good news here in Somerset County after the flight 93 crash.

LIN: You bet, a lot for one county to endure. You know, I want to take you back to that moment Thursday, when you -- when the folks out there heard the tapping on the pipes. So you know that there was somebody down there. And then there was nothing. What was going through your mind at that time?

CLARK: At that time, the Chief Zambanini from Sikesville, we got together and we started preparing ourselves for a rescue, like our governor spoke from the very beginning that this would be a rescue. So we continue to prepare ourselves. So when they started coming up, we were going to be ready for them.

LIN: A rescue, meaning you believe that those people were alive, but then the drill bit broke. It broke and there was an 18 hour delay. What do you do for yourselves at that site to keep your hopes alive, to keep coping?

CLARK: Just constantly continue to prepare on top of what we needed to do. There was all kinds of requests being made by the drillers, by EMS, by the Navy that was there, by government officials. And we just kept reaching out and getting the resources that they needed. And that kept us hopping at times. And we were able to sit down and relax a little bit, but we kept ourselves pretty busy on getting the resources that was needed. LIN: It sounded like you're running on pure adrenaline. Then there was a moment they dropped this listening device, you know, this pair of headsets and which basically acted like a microphone, to see if they could talk to these guys. I want to roll some video to take our audience back to very, very early this morning. I think this was the moment when the group out there actually heard their voices, actually heard their voices. And there was a bit of commotion, some excitement. And then all of a sudden, everybody started shushing the crowd. Were you there for that?

CLARK: Yes, I was there for that. And it was one joyous happy moment. There was lots of hugs and handshakes and pats on the back. And this is what we prepared ourselves for and worked so hard for.

LIN: It had to be a great moment. Chief, I bet you need to get some sleep now. I'd heard you'd been up literally for almost four days. Jim Clark, Somerset fire chief out there. Thank you very much for sharing your time out at the scene.

CLARK: Carol, thank you very much. If I may say one thing that the volunteerism in this county has been great. Flight 93 made us stronger. And this has made us stronger yet. And God bless America.

LIN: God bless America indeed. Thank you very much. Jim Clark, Somerset fire chief.

All right, we've got much more coming up in our special coverage. So please, stay right there, including a special photo album we've put together for you.


LIN: We're nearing the end of our special report on the rescue at Quecreek. Certainly a rare event for us at CNN. It is not often that stories starting in crisis end this way. Nine men down; nine men out; nine men stayed.

My special thanks to my co-anchor tonight, Bill Hemmer in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Bill, you are going to be carrying on tomorrow morning on AMERICAN MORNING.

HEMMER: Yeah, we sure will. AMERICAN MORNING, 7:00 a.m., with Paula Zahn, make sure you join us.

My thanks to Brian and Jeff. Wonderful work, men...

FLOCK: Just happy to be here.

HEMMER: You got it, you got it. We'll see you guys tomorrow morning, bright and early, OK?

Carol, see you soon, OK.

LIN: All right. Look forward to your coverage tomorrow.

And finally, miner Robert Pugh must have been dead tired when he got to the hospital this morning, but he said he had trouble sleeping, saying, quote, "I couldn't wait to see the sun rise." We took his cue there to share with you some of our favorite pictures of this dramatic story.





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