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 Post subject: New historical sign marks site of Sheppton mine disaster
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2015 7:17 am 
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Location: Anthracite Region of PA
New historical sign marks site of Sheppton mine disaster


By KELLY MONITZ

Published: August 24, 2015



Fifty-two years after the rescue of two coal miners trapped 320 feet below ground in a mine cave-in, a historical marker now stands near the site where a third miner remains entombed.

John Bova, the lost miner’s son, and J. Ronnie Sando, a member of the rescue team, stood on two large hunks of anthracite coal that flank the sign and unveiled the marker commemorating the Sheppton Mine Disaster and Rescue Saturday morning along Schoolhouse Road, where more than 50 people gathered for the event.

The marker recounts how rescuers used a new technique to drill a borehole to free two coal miners encased in a void under hundreds of tons of rock on Aug. 27, 1963. One miner was lost in the incident, which garnered national attention and prompted more stringent mine safety regulations, the marker reads.

The marker also notes that the rescue technique pioneered just outside Sheppton continues to be used in mine rescues worldwide, including Quecreek in 2002 and Chile in 2010.

The freed miners were David Fellin and Henry “Hank” Throne, who spent two weeks below ground as the rescue effort above toiled on. No one knew they were alive for the first five days after the cave-in and officials considered sealing off the mine, which continued to collapse.

Family members and other miners insisted they search again, and drilling equipment was brought in on Aug. 17. The following day, the drill broke into the chamber with Fellin and Throne. News quickly spread that the miners were alive and hundreds of people and media outlets flooded into the village hoping to witness a miracle.

Rescuers communicated with the men through a microphone placed down the 6-inch borehole, which also allowed them to send down food, drinks and blankets to sustain the trapped men.

The third miner, Louis Bova, had been cut off from the others and was never recovered. A short walk from the historical marker is a tombstone near the now-filled-in boreholes marking his grave.

The effort to place a historical marker at the site began two years ago, shortly after the 50th anniversary of the disaster and rescue. An eight-person committee worked on the application to Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which reviews some 200 applications each year but approves fewer than 20 of them.

“This is a great moment,” said William V. Lewis Jr., a commission member who offered remarks at the unveiling and complimented the committee’s efforts to document the event. “This is really a permanent part of history. This is a perpetual monument to the bittersweet events that happened here.”

Patrick “Porcupine Pat” McKinney presented and read a proclamation from the Schuylkill County commissioners, who could not attend due to another commitment, recognizing and dedicating the marker.

Rescuer Sando told the crowd that he thinks about the rescue effort every day, calling it a miracle. He recited a song he wrote about the disaster, “The Sheppton Mine Rescue,” and Bova sang a song he wrote about his father, “Entombed.”

John Patton, a member of the board of directors of CAN DO Community Foundation, which sponsored the $1,900 marker, and state Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Tamaqua, who remembers following the news accounts of the disaster, also offered remarks.

The Knelly-Podany American Legion Post 616 of Sheppton and the Marine Corps League Detachment No. 428 of Hazleton were on hand, and a three-round volley was offered followed by the playing of taps.

Carol Zielinski, Fellin’s niece and committee member, who conducted the unveiling, believes the marker comes at a time when people of the area need to be reminded how great they are and that greatness stems from the miners.

Back in 1963, the mine cave-in spelled doom, but miners in her family and others pleaded rescuers to press on and people came together in the effort.

“It shows what humans can do when they are united,” Zielinski said, adding the timing for the marker is perfect, as people likely forgot how great they can be. “We need to be reminded how great we are.”

The ceremony was very emotional for Bova, who was a baby when his father perished in the mine collapse.

“The miracle is over. The tragedy is still with me,” he said afterwards. “Was he crushed? Did he starve? Was he eaten? This is about my father.”

His wife, Bonnie, noted that when three doves were released, representing the three miners, two flew away and one stayed behind, lingering in trees above the marker.

“He said, ‘That’s my father there,’” she said, recounting her husband’s words.

Bova also thanked the Girard Estate for donating the coal that surrounds the marker and Pete Stravinski for transporting the coal to the site. He was also grateful for everyone’s efforts leading to the unveiling.

“I love you all and I appreciate all that you did,” he said.

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Scott K
"Watch Your Top"


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