All nine pulled alive from mine
SOMERSET, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- One by one, nine soggy and exhausted miners, their faces blackened with coal dust, were pulled early Sunday from a flooded Pennsylvania coal mine after being trapped underground for more than three days.
The last one pulled from the 240-foot deep shaft was 41-year-old Mark Popernack, who emerged at 2:45 a.m. and gave his rescuers a thumbs-up.
All nine men were taken to hospitals where they will remain under observation for at least 24 hours, officials said. They will be reunited with their families at the medical facilities.
The first miner, Randy Fogle, who had complained of chest pains, was taken by helicopter to Conemaugh Hospital.
Dr. Richard Saluzzo said Fogle was hypothermic, meaning his temperature was low, but he was lucid and was undergoing an EKG to evaluate his heart.
"We're warming him up," said Saluzzo. "Then we'll do the bloodwork and usual workup for any heart problems."
A second miner, Harry "Blaine" Mayhugh, was brought out about 15 minutes later, followed after a similar interval by Tom Foy. John Unger, 52, was the fourth man pulled to the surface and he was followed by John Phillippi. Ron Hilemand, 49, was raised at 2:10 a.m. Dennis J. Hall, 49, followed at 2:20. a.m. Then 50-year-old Robert Pugh, Jr. became the eighth miner to be rescued about 10 minutes later.
They were met by applause and cheers from the crews who were thrilled that the nine men they had been working around the clock to save had survived their ordeal.
The rescued miners were helped from the metal cage they rode up from the mine, placed on stretchers and then taken to be examined by medical personnel at the site.
The men were discovered alive late Saturday after workers drilled a rescue shaft down to an air pocket where the men had found refuge 240 feet below the surface. They had been there since Wednesday night, when millions of gallons of water from an adjacent, long-abandoned mine crashed through into the Quecreek mine.
A drilling crew punched a hole into the air pocket at 10:16 p.m. Saturday, according to reports from the scene. Rescuers lowered a telephone down an air shaft 6 inches in diameter and made contact with the miners a short time later, officials said.
"This is a miracle," said John Weir, a spokesman for Black Wolf Coal Co., the mine's owner. "We're going to get them out. We're going to get them with their families."
"All nine are alive, and we believe that all nine are in pretty good shape," Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker said.
Prior to Saturday night, rescue workers last heard from the miners at noon Thursday, when they tapped on the air pipe. After that, noise and vibration caused by the rescue efforts made further communication impossible.
The men began banging on the air pipe less than a minute after the drill broke through Saturday night, said Dave Lauriski, assistant secretary of mine safety and health for the U.S. Department of Labor.
"We had a lot of people get very excited, but we kept everybody calm until we knew what the conditions were, that we knew we had all nine miners," he said.
Rescuers kept warm, compressed air pumping through airways to preserve the air pocket.
The mine is located about 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Miners had broken through into an adjacent mine that had filled with an estimated 50 million-plus gallons of water since it was abandoned in the 1950s.
"All of a sudden, a call came in on the walkie-talkie," said Doug Custer, a co-worker of the trapped men, who escaped the flooded mine. "They said, 'We hit water -- get out.' In a mine, we joke around a lot, but we know a call like this is serious, so we dropped our tools, shut off the machinery, and got out of there as fast as we could." (Full story)
-- CNN Correspondent Jeff Flock and journalist Jeff Goodell contributed to this report.
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