Teams from Wyoming, New Mexico Take Top Mine Rescue Honors

FMC Westvaco Mine's "FMC 1" team from Green River, Wyo., was the national winner in the 2002 National and International Mine Rescue Contest held last week at the Reno/Sparks Convention Authority. Westinghouse Tru-Solutions Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's (WIPP) "Silver Team" from Carlsbad, N.M., finished second, and WIPP's "Blue Team" rounded out the top three.

In the international competition, the USA-Southwestern Wyoming Mutual Aid Association team from Green River, Wyo., finished first, followed by Poland's "White Eagle" team and the team representing Doe Run Peru Cobriza Mine from Lima, Peru. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) sponsors the contest.

"There are very few professions that share the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood that exist in mine rescue," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski in a speech at the contest awards banquet.

"Team members learn to rely on and support each other, because we never know when we will need the skills and expertise of our fellow mine rescuers. Just like in southwestern Pennsylvania," he added, referring to last month's successful rescue of nine coal miners who spent three days trapped underground at the Quecreek #1 Mine in Somerset County.

Mine rescue competitions are designed to test the knowledge of miners who might be called upon to respond to a real mine emergency. The contest requires six-member teams to solve a hypothetical mine emergency problem - such as a fire, explosion or cave-in - while judges rate them on their adherence to mine rescue procedures and how quickly they complete specific tasks. Other events included a first aid contest, as well as apparatus and bench competitions.

Also during Thursday's awards ceremony, four veterans of mine rescue were inducted into the Mine Rescue Hall of Fame:

  • Wayne D. Kanack served as chief on a Bureau of Mines Mine Rescue Team that rescued the two sole survivors of the Sunshine Mine disaster in 1972, who had been trapped for seven days. The successful rescue operation required that the team travel about a mile in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees F. For his participation in that rescue, Wayne received a Gold Metal of Valor Award from the Secretary of Interior. In 1985, Wayne was instrumental in rescuing Jessica McClure (Baby Jessica) from a water shaft in Midland, Texas.
  • Arlon B. Parmer has been involved in mine rescue since 1972, and he participated in the recovery of the Morton Salt Mine in Grand Saline, Texas after a fire in 1972. He served as a member of the MSHA National Advisory Rules Committee. Under his leadership, his team always placed in the upper standings in regional and national mine rescue competitions.
  • Gerald Myers began his mine rescue career at Morton Salt's Weeks Island Mine as a member of their first mine rescue team. He served on that team until 2000. During his tenure, the team participated in regional and national contests, winning several regional championships and always placing well in the national contests. He has been involved in several mine rescue operations which included victim recovery, gas inundations and fires.
  • Robert A. Koenig began his government career in the Mine Enforcement Safety Administration (MESA) in 1974. He worked in the Safety Analysis Center and later transferred to the Education and Training Center in 1977. While at the training center, Koenig began teaching mine rescue procedures, and he has been instrumental in the growth and development of mine rescue preparedness in the Rocky Mountain District and on the national level ever since.
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