Capping off a stunningly flawless rescue after 69 days of planning, rescuers freed the last of the trapped workers, foreman Luis Urzua. Miners were freed one at a time during a painstaking 22.5 hour rescue effort, brought up through a 2,000 foot shaft crafted by Chilean and American engineers. Get the full story, plus pictures and video below!
Following a collapse in the San Jose mine on August 5, the 33 workers became trapped 2,300 feet below the surface. They were discovered two weeks and three days later, all having lost 15 to 20 pounds of body weight, and running out of rations.
For the next month and a half, supplies were fed through a narrow bore hole down to the workers while a rescue mission was prepared. With help from scientists and engineers from around the globe, rescuers bore a large shaft to their location, and sent down a capsule for transport on October 12th with a rescuer inside.
“There was just this incredible moment where I was with a group of family members when everyone just caught their breath as they saw this man disappear into this very, very small hole in the earth,” journalist Pascale Bonnefoy told NPR. “And then about 30 minutes later, maybe a little longer, the first miner came to the surface.”
An eruption of cheers commenced as the first worker stepped out of the capsule, and hugged Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. 22 ½ hours later, workers freed the last worker, Luis Uruza. Miners coming out of the shaft ranged from tearful to elated, but the most entertaining had to be the second man Mario Sepulveda. When he emerged, he leapt out jumping an shouting for joy, and jokingly handed each rescuer a souvenir rock from the mine.
“I think I had extraordinary luck. I was with God and with the devil, and I reached out for God,” said Sepulveda after his release.
The foreman, who insisted he be the last to escape, seemed every bit the hero the story made him out to be.
“We have done what the entire world was waiting for,” the foreman told the Chilean president immediately after his rescue. “The 70 days that we fought so hard were not in vain. We had strength, we had spirit, we wanted to fight, we wanted to fight for our families, and that was the greatest thing.”
The rescue of the workers was a joyous end to the harrowing story of the collapsed mine, which claimed 2 lives in a 2006 collapse. Strangely absent from the celebrations were the owners of the land and dig, who have been of little help since the ordeal began. What do you think of the miraculous rescue? Luis Urzua, miner extraordinaire, and his 32 co-workers are now national heroes in Chile. Do you think their near-death experience will change mining laws in the ore-dependent country? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section! And don’t miss the photos and video on the rescue below!