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 Post subject: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:38 pm 
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50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked

SHEPPTON, Pa. (AP) -- The dramatic rescue of a pair of trapped Pennsylvania coal miners who survived 14 days underground riveted the public's attention in August 1963.

Fifty years later, the anniversary of the Sheppton Mine Disaster is being marked with a program near the mine site in northeastern Pennsylvania, at the grave of a third miner who perished in the collapse, according to the Standard-Speaker of Hazleton.

The miners were about 300 feet underground on Aug. 13, 1963, when the mine caved in, trapping them.

Miner Louis Bova became separated from the other two and was never found. But rescuers located David Fellin and Henry Throne after drilling a 6-inch borehole and lowering a light and camera.

Their rescue made international headlines.

---

Information from: Standard-Speaker, http://www.standardspeaker.com

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 Post subject: Re: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:12 pm 
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Mine cave-in 50 years ago would grab world's attention


By ED CONRAD (Standard-Speaker)
Published: August 13, 2013
Editor's note: The Standard-Speaker published this story a decade ago on the 40th anniversary of the Sheppton mine cave-in and rescue. It has been modified for today - 50 years after a mine collapse trapped three men underground, including one forever.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of one of the greatest local stories ever published by the Standard-Speaker or its predecessors.

It will forever be remembered as the Sheppton Mine Disaster, even though it really didn't happen in Sheppton and the word "disaster" might be a misnomer because many believe what happened was nothing less than a miracle.

That's because two anthracite miners, David Fellin and Henry "Hank" Throne, were rescued after being trapped underground for an incredible 14 days following a cave-in more than 300 feet below the surface.

The events of August 1963 would put the Hazleton area in the international limelight for almost two full weeks.

On the morning of Aug. 13, things were relatively quiet in the newsroom of the Standard-Speaker.

Then there was a frantic phone call informing Dominic Antonelli, the day city editor, that part of a bridge in White Haven had just collapsed into the Lehigh River.

Within minutes, another frantic call came in. There had been a cave-in at a coal mine near Sheppton and three miners were entombed.

The loss of three miners in a cave-in was only of local news and of little interest elsewhere in the world.

But, five days later, on Aug. 18, 1963, contact was made with two of the miners underground, and it became a sensational human-interest story that girdled the globe.

The dramatic rescue effort, which lasted more than a week, was front-page news in many newspapers across the world.

Reporters, columnists and photographers from overseas - London, Japan, Germany and other countries - were dispatched to the mine site to cover the event.

Watching, waiting

For the first six days of their ordeal following the cave-in on Aug. 13, 1963, Fellin and Throne were completely out of contact with the rest of the world.

Louis Bova, 54, of Pattersonville, near Shenandoah, the third miner entombed that morning, had been separated from the other two and his body was never found.

But for those first six days, Fellin, then 58, of Sheppton, and Throne, then 28, of Hazleton, courageously faced what appeared to be certain death.

Fellin, a miner for more than four decades, knew there was nothing the rescue party of volunteers could do to reach them.

There was only one entrance or exit - known as a slope - at the Oneida No. 2 mine, which was actually located outside the geographical limits of the village of Sheppton midway between Hazleton and Shenandoah.

However, rescuers couldn't enter the slope because of additional rumblings deep inside, as well as the presence of hazardous gas.

So, for several days, officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Mines and Mineral Industries as well as members of the rescue party could do very little but watch and wait.

Meanwhile, Fellin and Throne were simply trying to stay alive.

Fellin, co-owner of the mine with Gene Gibbons, was semi-retired and no longer a full-time miner. But that morning, he descended underground with Throne and Bova to show them what he wanted them to do and also help load a metal mine car that ran on railroad tracks and hauled the coal to the surface.

When the first buggy was loaded, Bova pulled a cord that signaled George Walker, the hoisting engineer in a small building topside, to activate the mechanical hoist and pull the car out of the mine.

That first buggy made it about halfway to the surface when, suddenly, it stopped and the earth began quaking perhaps 100 feet above the three miners.

Within seconds, Fellin, Throne and Bova heard louder rumbling above them just as a long electrical cord inside the gangway snapped and began dancing wildly, sparking electrical current.

Fellin immediately knew he or the others would be electrocuted if they came in contact with the live wire. So he beckoned them to a small chamber off the main gangway to get out of the way of the dancing wire.

When they entered the small enclosure - only about 2 feet wide and 9 to 10 feet long - the rumbling intensified and it appeared that tons of dirt, rock and coal were about to cascade down on them.

But, just then, Bova noticed a different chamber a short distance away and began running toward it.

It was a fatal mistake because, almost immediately, the worst of the cave-in occurred, filling the area where they had been working.

That was the last Fellin or Throne saw Bova, whose body was never recovered and who is remembered today by a tombstone at the site of the rescue.

Water, warmth

While the initial rescue team was totally frustrated above ground, Fellin and Throne were doing what they could to survive below.

For almost an hour they sat side by side in the enclosure, which was hardly wide enough for one of them to squeeze past the other.

And all the time - while waiting for the aftershocks of the first cave-in to subside - each pulled up his shirt and placed it over his nose and mouth because there was little letup in dust.

Finally, when the tremors had ended and the dust finally settled, they realized they had to find water.

Fellin, familiar with the mine, knew there was a reservoir of stagnant, sewer-smelling water beneath their feet. So he used a broken tool to dig a small hole and, after it seemed to have hit a void, he grabbed an empty oil can, tied a rope to it and lowered it deep below him.

Soon, he was hauling up a can of putrid water.

Sipping it the first time, both Fellin and Throne spit it out. But, after a few more sips, it wasn't tasting so awful and they began swallowing.

Next, the two miners had to combat the cold.

The temperature inside the mine hovered around 55 degrees but the clothes Fellin and Throne wore were saturated and they were shivering.

That's when Throne, sitting aside Fellin with their backs to a wall, nonchalantly told his companion that he knew how he could make them warm.

He told Fellin to sit between his legs and start rocking, which he did.

And each time they rocked, Throne had Fellin's shirt lifted and was blowing air down his back. And, soon, both men were warm.

Fellin expressed amazement but Throne told him it was something he had been taught in the armed forces while stationed at a base in the far north.

They didn't have to face the other necessity - food - until the next day. That's when Fellin and Throne, who hadn't eaten for more than 24 hours, experienced serious hunger pain.

They were so hungry, in fact, that they attempted to eat the bark off timber that was holding up the roof of their chamber. But they spit it out in disgust when they realized they couldn't swallow it.

Then, suddenly, Fellin told Throne that he believed he had a way to "feed" them. He then got the can of water, held a finger to his Adam's apple and took a sip. Fellin then told Throne to do likewise.

And, after doing it a few times, both realized they were no longer hungry.

Fellin explained that, for some reason, he remembered seeing movie newsreels in which Mahatma Gandhi would be shown in the midst of his many long hunger strikes, subsisting only on water. And Fellin said he remembered that anytime Gandhi was shown taking a drink, he was pressing onto his Adam's apple.

Years later, Fellin said he had learned that the maneuver triggers a mechanism in the body that allows a person to live off body fats. He did that until food was sent down through a borehole after the rescue crew made contact.

'They're alive'

On the surface, rescuers began to fear there was nothing they could do to save the men, if they were even still alive.

And, when virtually all hope was lost that any of the three miners might be found alive, a million-in-one gamble was taken.

It was decided, as a last-ditch effort to satisfy the families of the miners, to drill a 6-inch-wide borehole in an attempt to reach one or more of the men buried more than 300 feet underground.

Drilling the hole took much of Aug. 17 and all of Aug. 18, but around 11 p.m. on Aug. 18, a Sunday, a hole had been drilled to the proper depth.

And just before midnight, a light and a microphone were lowered into the earth in an effort to establish contact with one or more of the miners.

A member of the rescue crew cupped his mouth over the borehole, got as close as he could to the ground and yelled: "Look for the light!"

He thought he had detected something, so he stood up and waved both arms, demanding total silence.

Once again he got on all fours and once again hollered, "Look for the light!" then cupped an ear to the borehole and excitedly jumped to his feet and screamed: "They're alive! I hear them! They're alive!"

Within minutes, the astounding news spread like wildfire around the world.

"MINE MIRACLE" was the giant headline across the top of The Los Angeles Times the next morning.

However, the original article in the Times contained an unfortunate error. The article, transmitted via a wire service, stated that all three miners were found alive. That was not the case, as Fellin informed the rescue team just minutes after the original contact was made that Bova was not with them.

What followed was the patient drilling of larger boreholes, then the drilling of a 17½-inch borehole with a drill loaned by one of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes' companies.

People worldwide waited for a happy ending - and it finally came in the wee hours of Aug. 27, 1963.

First Throne, then Fellin were pulled to the surface wearing parachute harnesses and football helmets.

It was a scene that would be almost duplicated at the Quecreek bituminous mine in Somerset County in 2002.

There was a great difference in the two rescues, however.

At Somerset, high-tech scientific equipment was used to determine where the men might be underground.

In the cave-in and rescue near Sheppton, it was sheer guesswork - and a good deal of luck.

The original drill had traveled many miles to arrive at the site where the cave-in occurred. It was destined to drill the borehole near a wooden stake that indicated where the miners might be found, at the recommendation of state Bureau of Mining and United Mine Workers officials and veteran miners who had worked inside that mine years before.

But it didn't quite work out that way.

The truck carrying the drill broke down quite a distance from the stake. With little recourse and less time to waste, rescuers decided to sink the borehole there.

And the rest is history.

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 Post subject: Re: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:20 pm 
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Lost miner's son never escaped Sheppton, either
By KELLY MONITZ (Staff Writer)
Published: August 13, 2013

John Bova can't tell you much about the anthracite mine cave-in that claimed his father's life in August 1963.

He was 8 months old, literally a babe in his mother's arms.

Now, a man of 50 years, Bova displays a pocket Bible, a gold Social Security card and a small collection of ragged and yellowed letters, newspaper clippings and the deed for his father's grave on his dining table.

Those precious, few items and a solitary photograph of his father taken on his parents' wedding day is all he has to remember his father.

Other photos show him with his mother. In one, she clutches him in her arms inside a church near their home in Pattersonville, southwest of Sheppton, as she prayed for a miracle. Another shows them at his father's grave at the mine site.

Bova's father, Louis, remains buried under hundreds of tons of rock and dirt more than 300 feet underground near Sheppton. Two other miners, David Fellin and Henry Throne, who were separated from Bova when earth filled their mine, lived to see daylight again.

Bova's widow, Eva, didn't talk about the mine collapse, but cried every day, her son said.

"My mom didn't say much at all," he said.

She left her son wondering what really happened down the Oneida Slope No. 2 when the mine roof gave way on the morning of Aug. 13 and in the days that followed as the trapped miners struggled to survive in darkness with only sulphur water to sustain them.

Growing up, Bova heard unspeakable tales from old-time miners and others.

"All of my life, they said (Fellin and Throne) ate my father," Bova said.

Difficult words for anyone to hear - much less a fatherless child looking for answers and yearning for the father-son relationship that fate robbed from him.

"It was hard growing up without a father," he said. "Other kids were learning stuff from their fathers. All the kids were going fishing with their dads. It was tough."

Bova stayed with relatives, as his mother struggled with her health, needing surgery to remove an extra kidney then developing cancer in what remained, he said. She was admitted to the hospital for an undisclosed ailment the day the other miners were rescued.

"My mother was sickly," he said. "I stayed with my uncle and aunt."

His mother's sister married an abusive drunk, Bova said.

"I got beat up every night," he said.

Bova survived the abuse, but wonders how different his life would have been with his father, he said.

"I think I would have been a better person if my father lived," he said. "Everyone needs guidance in their life. I didn't have much guidance."

Bova remembers going to his father's grave at the mine site with his mom.

"It was so beautiful," he said, describing the evergreens on either side of the jeweled headstone and the white picket fence surrounding three sides of the plot.

When Bova was about 12, vandals chopped down the trees, knocked over the headstone and pried out its jewels. Tears welled up in his eyes as he recalled the devastation.

He calls his father's death "an act of God."

"What else can you say? He wanted him and He took him," Bova said.

Louis Bova shouldn't have been in the mine the morning of the collapse, his son said. He switched shifts with another worker who was expecting a child, he said.

Other published accounts say he switched shifts to spend time with his own son. Another contends that he had just moved to day shift, as another man was added to the night crew.

"There's so many stories," Bova said. "It's like a fish story."

He doesn't know which stories are true, or which got better with each telling. But the one that he can't shake is the possible cannibalization of his father underground, he said.

Rescuers sent cameras, microphones and even a miner down the rescue hole to search for Bova, finding no signs of life or death.

"They wouldn't let my dad's brothers down," Bova said, as if that were proof of the persistent, coal region rumor.

"To this day, I wonder if they ate him," he said. "Now, the only one that knows is God, because everyone else is dead."

Fellin and Throne denied the barroom rumor concocted from a miner's tale that the smallest man in a cave-in was sacrificed to save the others, in a 1968 Chicago Daily News feature, which noted that Bova stood 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds.

"Evil men," Fellin was quoted in the story. "That's what they are. Only evil men could think that I could have eaten Bova to stay alive."

Throne also denied turning to cannibalism in the five days before a drill reached the chamber in which he and Fellin huddled and rescuers sent food down the hole.

"I don't even like meat," he told a reporter.

Bova harbors mixed feelings about the cave-in having lost a father, but knows the techniques pioneered in the rescue of Fellin and Throne are still being used today to save miners' lives.

A guitar saved Bova's life after his oldest son named for his father, Louis John, got caught up with drugs, causing serious health problems. Playing guitar helps him through the rough patches and allowed him to write a song about his father, "Entombed."

Bova also paid tribute to his father with several tattoos - one reads, "Never Seen, Never Forgotten."

To this day, Bova yearns for the truth, not another tall tale. He feels alone in the dark - not unlike his father 50 years ago.

"For some people, it's just another day," he said of the anniversary. "For me, it's the story of my life."

kmonitz@standardspeaker.com

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 Post subject: Re: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:26 pm 
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Walk to mark mine disaster anniversary


By JILL WHALEN (Staff Writer)

Published: August 13, 2013

A walk to the site of the Sheppton Mine Disaster will be held Sunday, exactly 50 years to the day rescuers realized coal miners David Fellin and Henry Throne had survived a mine collapse.

Those who attend the free, public event will learn more about the efforts to save the men, who were trapped for almost two weeks underground, said "Porcupine" Pat McKinney, education coordinator for the Schuylkill Conservation District.

The Schuylkill On the Move walk will take participants to the gravesite of miner Louis Bova, whose body was never recovered from the mine. There, McKinney said, a short program will be held to memorialize Bova, recognize the survivors and pay tribute to the rescuers.

After the program, McKinney will share information about the rescue.

"We always try to focus on something historical while enjoying nature," McKinney said. Knowing that 50 years had passed since the Sheppton Mine Disaster, he suggested the August walk.

Rescuers had spent all of Aug. 18, 1963, drilling a 6-inch borehole into the ground. At that point, there was no proof any of the men had survived.

When the hole was drilled to the correct depth, rescuers heard the miners' voices.

But it would take several days to free the men. A special drill was used to reach Fellin and Throne, who were pulled to safety on Aug. 27.

Ronnie Sando of Beaver Meadows was among the rescuers and will be on hand for the Schuylkill On the Move walk.

"I'm the only guy living from Pagnotti's rescue crew," said Sando, who authored the book, "The Famous Sheppton Mine Rescue." "I was 25 at the time and even back then I sensed that (the rescue) was a miracle."

McKinney is familiar with the area, and said he would personally support efforts to make the site a community park or historic site.

Participants should meet in the parking area along Schoolhouse Road located off state Route 924 in Sheppton. McKinney said walkers should wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the walk and bring water and snacks.

For more information, contact McKinney at 570-622-4124, ext. 113, or porcupine pat@yahoo.com.

Schuylkill On the Move is a collaborative effort lad by the Schuylkill Conservation District working in concert with the Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau, Schuylkill Conservancy and Schuylkill County VISION.

"Our goal is to get people out into natural areas to reconnect, get healthy, and at same time, learn history," McKinney said.

jwhalen@standardspeaker.com

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 Post subject: Re: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:31 pm 
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http://issuu.com/republicanherald/docs/ ... 31/4399011

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 Post subject: Re: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:07 pm 
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wow, what a write up........

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 Post subject: Re: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:27 pm 
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It was from the Wilkes-Barre and the Hazelton newspapers.

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 Post subject: Re: 50th anniversary of Pa. mine rescue to be marked
PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:28 pm 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
http://wnep.com/2013/08/13/remembering- ... -disaster/

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