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Couple Relives Previous Mine Rescue

July 27, 2002

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The swift rush of water into a mine. The night-and-day grind as crews raced the clock to reach the trapped men. The wives, children and parents desperate for any word of their loved ones’ fates.

When Joyce Morgan watched the desperate rescue efforts at the Black Wolf Coal Co. mine, she was struck by the sense that she had seen it all before _ and she had. Twenty-five years ago, her husband was injured and her son killed in a disaster that was amazingly similar.

``I looked at my husband and I said, ’Gosh, it’s like we’re reliving the same thing,″ she said Saturday.

On March 1, 1977, millions of gallons of water burst through a wall inside Kocher Coal Co.’s Porter Tunnel mine near Tower City, Pa., 140 miles away from the Black Wolf mine. Most of the 100 miners escaped through an emergency tunnel but several remained trapped.

Nine died, including Dennis Morgan, whose body wasn’t found for 28 days.

``We didn’t know if he was dead or alive or freezing to death or starving to death down there,″ said Joyce Morgan, 75. ``It was a terrible time.″

One of the men, Ronald Adley, was rescued after being trapped underground for six days. Adley, 37 at the time of the accident, has since died, his son said.

Hank Throne, who spent 14 days trapped in the Sheppton, Pa., mine cave-in of 1963, arrived at Porter Tunnel to offer encouragement to Adley as rescuers’ drills labored through bedrock and coal veins to reach him.

``We were exploring the mine and heard him tapping,″ said Walter Vincinelli, 77, who began digging coal by hand in 1943 and went on to become Pennsylvania’s mine safety commissioner in the 1970s. ``The miners went through 48 feet of coal to get into where he sat.″

The similarity between the two mine disasters fueled the optimism of workers trying to get to the men 240 feet down in the Black Wolf mine, said David Hess, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

``In terms of finding pockets of air to exist in, they are similar,″ he said.

Twenty-five years after the accident, Ernest Morgan, 76, whose son transferred to Porter Tunnel from another mine so he could work alongside his father, declined to talk about his ordeal. But sat nearby as his wife of 57 years offered her recollections in a telephone interview from their Valley View home.

``He tries not to think about it too much, but things like what’s happening out in Somerset make it hard not to think about,″ Joyce Morgan said.

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On the Net:

Pa. Bureau of Deep Mine Safety: http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/minres/dms/dms.htm

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