Lost in the ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of the Quecreek mine rescue – the horrifying conditions those nine miners endured during the 72 hours they spent trapped underground. The Post-Gazette recaps what it was like for the men while they waited for rescue:
Ten years ago today, nine men were frantically trying to build dikes with cement blocks against water threatening them in Quecreek Mine, where they had been trapped when they accidentally breached the wall of an adjacent flooded abandoned mine.
It was hard, frantic work and they were breathing low-oxygen air, called black damp, that had poured in from the abandoned mine. Above them on a dairy farm in Lincoln Township in Somerset County, rescuers struggled to figure out how to save them.
But then, at 3:30 a.m., the miners’ spirits soared when a 6-inch drill cut into Entry No. 4 and a pipe dropped down. They repeatedly tapped on the pipe — eventually in a sequence of nine — to indicate all were alive. And then heated, compressed air came roaring through the pipe, providing them with much needed oxygen.
Still, the foul-smelling water rose foot by foot toward them, eventually covering the air shaft, keeping them from tapping on it. They began to pound on the rock ceiling– nine taps every 10 minutes — hoping someone using specialized listening equipment would hear them.