Quick Thinking, Rescue Devices Save Two Miners

May 15, 2000
A pair of miners used oxygen-supplying self-rescue devices to save\r\ntwo of their co-workers who were in danger of suffocation at an Ohio mine\r\nearly last week.

A pair of miners used oxygen-supplying self-rescue devices to save two of their co-workers who were in danger of suffocation at the Ohio Valley Coal Co.''s Powhatan No. 6 mine near St. Clairsville, Ohio, early last week.

About 11 a.m. last Monday, a foreman and three other miners were working to rehabilitate a deteriorated area of Powhatan No. 6 mine when the foreman, who had walked ahead of the others, entered an area with very low oxygen and collapsed.

As the foreman''s gas detector sounded an alarm, roof bolter Jim Shapley and continuous miner operator Ted Holland went to his assistance.

When Holland, in the lead, tried to reach the foreman, Holland''s detector alarm sounded and he also collapsed.

Kevin Roe, also a roof bolter, joined Shapley and they pulled Holland quickly to safety but could not easily move the foreman and began feeling effects of low oxygen.

They retreated to don self-contained self-rescuers that supply oxygen, then returned to pull out the foreman.

They then held one of the oxygen-supplying devices to the foreman''s nose and mouth to help him breathe. Holland meanwhile had recovered and telephoned for help.

The foreman was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and then by air to a Pittsburgh medical facility. He was expected to recover after a brief hospitalization.

"These miners deserve the highest praise for their quick thinking and courage," said Davitt McAteer, MSHA administrator. "We hope that everyone in underground coal mining will pay attention to the message that properly maintaining self-rescue devices and proper training save lives."

Federal law requires all underground coal mine operators to provide self-contained self-rescuers (SCSR''s) to each underground miner for use in an emergency.

The respirators are designed primarily to provide one hour of oxygen against toxic or unbreathable atmospheres in case of a mine fire or explosion.

The devices may be worn on the belt or stored in an easily accessible place under a plan approved by MSHA.

Each underground coal miner is required to receive hands-on training in the use of SCSR''s.

"Thanks to these miners, no lives were lost," said McAteer. "If they had made the wrong decision -- tried to continue their rescue efforts without oxygen devices -- there could have been four deaths. We hope others will learn from what happened in this incident."

MSHA is continuing its investigation into the emergency.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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