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Miracle at Quecreek Mine
Nine miners trapped for over three days are finally rescued
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• Coal Mining in Pennsylvania
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By Kimberly Powell

New! Pictures - Rescue of the Quecreek Nine!

Quecreek in the News:

The Quecreek Mine Rescue
An index to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette coverage of the rescue of nine miners trapped underground for three days in the Quecreek mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Quecreek Mine - the Man Behind the Miracle
CNN explores the technology behind the Quecreek miracle - how Bob Long, an engineer technician for Civil Mining Environmental Engineering Inc., used $60,000 worth of GPS equipment to decide exactly where to drill the crucial first hole that located the miners trapped 240-feet underground at the Black Wolf Coal Companies' Quecreek Mine in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

Quecreek Mine Investigation Updates
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will continue to provide updates each Wednesday and Friday for the duration of the Quecreek investigation.

Federal Agency Begins Quecreek Investigation
The Pittsburgh Business Times reports that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has begun its investigation into the Quecreek mine flood, as well as initiating a national project to identify and review old mines.

Disney Digs Up Deal for Miners' Story
The Walt Disney Co. has locked up exclusive book and TV movie rights to the personal stories of the nine Pennsylvania miners rescued from the Quecreek mine in Somerset, PA.



All nine of the exhausted miners, soggy and blackened with coal dust, have been rescued from the flooded Quecreek coal mine, after being trapped 240 feet underground in a cramped, partially flooded chamber for more than three days. The first miner, 43-year-old Randall Fogle of Garrett, Somerset County, was brought up shortly before 1:00 a.m. He complained of chest pain and was flown by helicopter to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown where he is doing well. Just fifteen minutes later, the second man, Harry "Blaine" Mayhugh of Meyersdale, PA, was brought up in the 22-inch-wide rescue capsule, followed after a similar period of time by Thomas Foy, age 51. In regular intervals the rest of the men were then brought to the surface, in an order that the miners basically determined among themselves, based on their conditions. John Unger, age 52, was the fourth man pulled to the surface, followed by John Phillippi of Gray. Ron Hilemand, age 49, was brought up from the mine at 2:10 a.m. Dennis J. Hall, age 49 of Johnstown, followed at 2:20. a.m. Robert Pugh, Jr., age 50 of Boswell, became the eighth miner to be rescued about 10 minutes later. Mark Popernack, age 41 of Somerset, and the last miner out of the mine, emerged to a cheering crowd at 2:45 a.m.

The miners were wet, tired, and very hungry, but otherwise in remarkable condition. Officials said that four of the six miners at Comemaugh hospital could be discharged as early as this afternoon; two others will most likely be kept a day or two for tests. The remaining three miners are at Somerset Hospital in satisfactory condition, a hospital spokesman said Sunday morning.

Governor Mark Schweiker delivered the following statement this morning on the successful rescue of the nine coal miners trapped in the Quecreek Mine:

"What a beautiful ending! We’re nine for nine, and we got all of our guys out. As precarious as the circumstances had become at points, we fought through it, and we were ultimately successful. It is nothing short of a miracle.

"I thought these things only happened in the movies. I’m proud to say they happen here in Somerset.

"Because of some dogged Pennsylvanians and helpful Americans from other states, these men are safe. It’s a tribute to the ingenuity and the careful planning and action by over 200 professionals."


11:40 PM - Governor Mark Schweiker has confirmed that all nine men are indeed alive and in "reasonably good shape." Several hours of work are still needed before they can start to bring the miners to the surface, however, including backing the drill out of the hole, lowering provisions, and preparing the decompression chambers.

11:25 PM - Reuters and AP have stated that all nine men are alive!

11:15 PM - ALIVE! Rescue workers confirm that they have made contact with some of the nine miners through a cell phone lowered down the shaft to the chamber. There is not yet any confirmation on

10:35 PM - Breakthrough! Rescue workers broke through to the chamber where it is believed that the miners are trapped at 10:16 PM. No word yet on the miners.

10:00 PM - Three days of constant pumping has finally succeeded in lowering the water level inside the mine to an ideal level for rescue. Drilling continues in Rescue Shaft #1 and it is believed that the breakthrough will occur at any time.

6:40 PM - Drilling in Rescue Shaft #1 resumed after the airlock was installed. Rescue workers are within 14 feet of the air pocket and hope to begin rescue efforts by midnight.

4:30 PM - Drilling in Rescue Shaft #1 has been halted at 224 feet to allow rescue workers to install an airlock, in order to preserve the air pocket keeping the water away from the trapped miners.

3:30 PM - Drilling in Rescue Shaft #2 has stopped at 204 feet because of a broken pipe. A replacement pipe is being airlifted to the site.

8:00 AM - Gov. Mark Schweiker announced at a press conference that crews have reached a depth of 161 feet in the second rescue shaft being drilled to reach the nine miners trapped in Somerset County. The drills are still moving through the tough limestone, but experts believe that softer sandstone lies beneath and should speed the drilling effort. The water level has been taken down to 26 feet, with a final goal of 30 feet to clear the location where the miners are trapped. Rescue workers hope to reach the chamber where the miners are believed to be by early afternoon.


11:00 PM - Drilling will continue in both rescue shafts through the night. Rescue workers hope to be in position by sunrise on Saturday to reach the shaft/air pocket where the miners are trapped. Water continues to be pumped out of the mine, and will hopefully have receded past the point where the miners are trapped by morning.

7:00 PM - Drilling has resumed in the first rescue shaft (currently at 110 ft) and continues in the second rescue shaft (currently at 45 ft) as well. Water levels in the mine have dropped a total of 19 feet from their peak.

5:00 PM - The pieces of the broken drill have finally been cleared from the first rescue shaft.

3:00 PM - Water continues to be pumped out of the mine shaft where the nine miners are trapped. The water level has dropped by about 17 feet, and needs to drop another 17 feet to significantly relieve the air pressure surrounding the air pocket being provided for the miners. A total of ten pumps are operating at the site, pumping a total of 20,000 gallons of water per minute out of the mine.

1:00 PM - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is monitoring the quality of the water at the Quemahoning Dam Reservoir where water pumped out of the QueCreek mine is being discharged. Tests conducted to not indicate any water quality problems.

12:00 PM - The U.S. Navy has joined the rescue efforts, bringing underwater experts and nine hyperbaric decompression chambers to the scene. Experts say that the pressure down at the trapped miner's location is equivalent to an underwater depth of 40 ft. After being down this long, the miners will need to decompress slowly to avoid medical complications.


In a desperate race against time, rescuers continue their efforts to save nine miners trapped approximately 240 feet below the surface of the earth in the QueCreek Mine, Somerset County, PA. The coal miners have been trapped since 9 p.m. Wednesday night, when the men accidentally drilled into the nearby abandoned Saxman Mine and released 50 million gallons of water into their own shaft, cutting them off from the surface. The men are trapped in a small chamber just over four feet high and 18ft wide, in frigid 55° water. The area of entrapment is approximately 240 feet underground and about one and a half miles from the mine entrance. Nine other miners working nearby managed to escape when the first group alerted them to the disaster by radio.

Rescue workers have been able to pump out a large quantity of the water from the mine, draining it into a nearby creek bed, but millions of gallons of water still remain. Air is being pumped down a six-inch shaft, drilled down to the men in an attempt to maintain an air bubble and give the men breathing space. Optimism soared during the night as a large rescue drill, brought in from a work site in nearby Clarksburg, West Virginia, tunneled down 110 feet toward the men. The rescue attempt ground to a standstill, however, as the thick metal drill bit became stuck and snapped about 2 a.m. A new bit has been flown in by helicopter, according to Pennsylvania governor Mark Schweiker, but it is taking time to retrieve the old bit, stuck 100 feet down in solid rock, and install the new one. A second rescue shaft has also been started about 75 feet from the primary one in order to cover all possible bases. In the meantime, all family members, friends, and rescue workers can do is hope and pray that the nine men, last heard from about 11:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, are still alive.


The QueCreek Mine was opened in 2000 by Black Wolf Coal, Inc. and is the company's only mine. According to reports filed by the operator, approximately 60 miners are employed, working two production shifts per day. The Black Wolf Coal company has been cited for over 25 safety violations since March of 2001 according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. This accident represents the largest number of unaccounted for miners in Pennsylvania since 37 miners lost their lives in the tragic Robena mine explosion on December 6, 1962. To make matters even tougher for this close-knit community, the QueCreek mine is located just 10 miles northwest of the spot where hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Coal mining has been big industry in western PA since the Industrial Revolution was fueled by coal mines opened to support first the Colonial iron industry and then Andrew Carnegie's steel mills. Pennsylvania is now the fourth largest coal producer in the United States, following Wyoming, Kentucky and West Virginia.


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2002 Kimberly & Albrecht Powell. Licensed to About.com.  All Rights Reserved.

Quecreek Mine Map provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

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