Miners honored at church service near site of accident; hundreds join them in prayer

Monday, August 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) _ The nine miners trapped for three days in a flooded mine attended a church service to give thanks for the rescue some have called a miracle.

Hundreds of family, friends and neighbors filled the Christ Casebeer Lutheran Church on Sunday. The church is just 100 yards away from where the men were trapped for 77 hours in a cramped shaft at Quecreek Mine in western Pennsylvania.

Jerry Davis, an assistant district manager for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, was one of the first on the scene and was there when rescuers bored through the ceiling of the mine at 10:16 p.m. Saturday, July 27.

``I spent a number of hours of my life here, three or four days. I wanted to share some of the blessings they received,'' Davis said following the service.

Coal miner William Ronan and his wife Carol said they knew two of the trapped men. Carol Ronan said they were at the Sunday night service ``thanking the Lord for bringing our family and a friends out.''

The miners did not speak during the service, attended by religious leaders from different denominations, but did pose for photos outside with those in attendance.

Randy Housel, one of the drillers who assisted in the rescue, said he sent down the first can of chewing tobacco to the trapped miners and met them after the service.

``I told them, 'I'm so glad to see you above ground,''' said Housel, 45.

The miners were trapped when an abandoned, water-filled mine flooded the shaft where they worked. During their ordeal, they made a pact to ``live or die as a group,'' tying themselves together so all of their bodies would be found if they drowned.

They spent hours in the water, at one point attempting to break through another wall to try to bring the water level down. Instead, it rose, forcing them to swim in their heavy miners' clothes, one of the miners said.

``It's divine intervention. We needed something like this to happen,'' said Lei Hennessy, 41, of Seattle, who was at the service.

The government will investigate the accident while reviewing hazards posed by abandoned mines nationwide.

This week the miners sold book and TV rights to The Walt Disney Co. for $150,000 each, their lawyer said Saturday.

The nine rescued miners were: Randy Fogle, 43, of Garrett; Thomas Foy, 51, of Berlin; Harry B. Mayhugh, 31, Foy's son-in-law; John Unger, 52, of Hollsopple; John Phillippi, of Gray; Ronald Hileman, of Gray; Dennis Hall, 49, of Johnstown; Robert Pugh, 50, of Boswell; and Mark Popernack, 41, of Somerset.