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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Chilean mine drama comes to a charmed end after 69 days

The capsule carries Manuel Gonzalez, a rescue specialist, into the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile, on October 13, 2010, to aid in the rescue of the 33 miners trapped in the mine for 70 days. (Alex Ibanez/Handout/MCT/Abaca Press)
The capsule carries Manuel Gonzalez, a rescue specialist, into the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile, on October 13, 2010, to aid in the rescue of the 33 miners trapped in the mine for 70 days. (Alex Ibanez/Handout/MCT/Abaca Press)

The dramatic and emotional rescue of miners trapped almost a half-mile below ground ended Wednesday night with Luis Urzua, 54, ascending to the surface in the now-battered Fenix capsule that had pulled 32 of his colleagues to freedom before him.

Urzua, a foreman in the mine, had reportedly assumed the mantle of leadership from the beginning of what became a 69-day ordeal when the desert mine collapsed, sealing the men in a humid underground chamber. He was the last miner to leave the chamber, followed in surprisingly short order by five rescue workers who descended Tuesday to assist in the operation.

The rescue work had adopted a mesmerizing, rhythmic routine, the thin capsule shimmying down and up the narrow shaft that had been drilled to reach the chamber. Each appearance at the surface delivered a newly rescued miner into the arms of overjoyed family members, reunions that were still moving with every repetition.

“”We have lived a magical night, a night we will remember throughout our lives, a night in which life defeated death,”” declared Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who welcomed the miners as they emerged from the rescue pod one at a time.

The pace quickened throughout the day, each miner’s appearance unleashing a new wave of raw emotion. But what only hours earlier seemed magical, also became routine.

One after another, average men united in an incredible tale of survival and distinguished by each one’s unique skills and story, returned.

The 55-year-old miner who led a prayer group followed the 26-year-old former security guard who helped manage packages sent down to the miners. The one who while trapped asked his wife of 25 years to renew their wedding vows was followed by the one who went underground to pay for his son’s medical school. The miner colleagues referred to as “”Dr. House”” after the TV character preceded the one who monitored gas levels in the pit and sent readings to the surface.

Officials said initial indications were that the men were in remarkably good health.

Obama also singled out the Americans who manufactured and operated the drill that reached the miners, and the NASA team that helped design the rescue capsule.

Alicia Campos, whose 27-year old son Daniel Herrera Campos was pulled up 16th early Wednesday afternoon, said the first order of business after seeing her son was to take him home to southern Chile and host a Mass of thanksgiving.

 

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