Universal Studios via Getty Images
The 33 rescued Chilean miners and their families enjoyed a day of fun at Universal Studios Hollywood on Nov. 19, 2010 in Universal City, Calif. Five years later, a movie would be released that shares the story of their rescue.

A Miracle Comes to the Movie Theater: The Story of the 33

Nov. 11, 2015
It’s not often that Hollywood turns a workplace safety story into a film, even one as dramatic as the rescue of 33 men from a mine in Chile.

It truly was the stuff of miracles (and a Hollywood movie): Thirty-three Chilean miners who were trapped underground Aug. 5, 2010 when their mine collapsed were found alive 17 days later, giving their loved ones and the entire nation cause to celebrate.

But the drama continued...

When the main tunnel in the copper and gold mine, located near Copiapó, Chile, collapsed, the 33 miners were able to access an underground shelter. Rescuers worked for more than 2 weeks to locate the trapped miners, and hope that they would be found alive faded before contact was made Aug. 22. The miners were able to send a note to the surface explaining they were all alive and well in the shelter. But that wasn’t the end of their story.

The final miner wouldn’t see the light of day until Oct. 13, 2010. The last miner rescued, Luis Alberto Urzua Iribarren, was the shift foreman and was credited with rationing the two days’ worth of food miners had with them and making it last until rescuers discovered them.

His voice was the first voice heard by rescuers following the collapse. “We are well and hoping that you will rescue us,” he told them. The other miners credited Urzua Iribarren with keeping their hopes – and bodies – alive long enough to be rescued.

EHS Today covered the story of the 33 miners. Like many around the world, we got caught up in the human drama of their rescue. At a time when so many miners were dying – 29 U.S. miners were killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia on April 5, 2010 – the rescue of the Chilean miners was a bright spot in an unusually dismal year for health and safety in general: the Upper Big Branch Mine, the Deepwater Horizon, plane and train crashes, earthquakes, an erupting volcano, oil tanker explosion and terrorist bombings, just to name a few of the topics making headlines that year.

It was bound to happen: The story of the rescue of the 33 miners has been made into a film from Alcon Entertainment and Phoenix Pictures.

As inherently dramatic as the true story is, this “sponsored content” provided by the studios to CNN ups the ante:

“In 2010, the eyes of the world turned to Chile, where 33 miners had been buried alive by the catastrophic explosion and collapse of a 100-year-old gold and copper mine.  Over the next 69 days, an international team worked night and day in a desperate attempt to rescue the trapped men as their families and friends, as well as millions of people globally, waited and watched anxiously for any sign of hope.  But 200 stories beneath the surface, in the suffocating heat and with tensions rising, provisions – and time – were quickly running out.

A story of resilience, personal transformation and triumph of the human spirit, the film takes us to the Earth’s darkest depths, revealing the psyches of the men trapped in the mine, and depicting the courage of both the miners and their families who refused to give up.

Based on the gripping true story of survival – and filmed with the cooperation of the miners, their families and their rescuers – ‘The 33’ reveals the never-before-seen actual events that unfolded, above and below ground, which became nothing less than a worldwide phenomenon.”

I’m glad the story of the miners is being told. I plan on seeing the film, and I watched the trailer. I found it interesting that the age of the mine – 100 years old – and the conditions of the mine were mentioned in the trailer and hopefully will be included in the film. It’s not often that workplace conditions and safety failures are discussed in movies. And in what has to be millions of dollars'-worth of special effects and computer-generated effects, you truly feel as if you are in the middle of a mine collapse. Only through the magic of Hollywood can we experience this and live to talk about it.

If you can think of other instances where workplace safety or unsafe working conditions were mentioned in a movie, please leave the name of the film in the comments below and if we get a long enough list – five or more – we’ll have a discussion about it.

In the meantime, please read about EHS Today’s coverage of the 33 Chilean miners and the Herculean effort to rescue them.

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