PALISADE, Colo. (AP) _ A miner buried for 37 hours under tons of rock says he thought of killing himself as brackish water rose almost to his face before he was dug free Thursday by his co-workers' persistent rescue efforts.

Curt Sanders, 32, a miner since he was 19, walked out almost unscathed, except for a few scrapes.

''When the water was rising I actually thought of suicide because I didn't want to drown,'' he told reporters from his hospital bed in Grand Junction, where he is under observation.

''I actually contemplated hanging myself with my belt to avoid drowning,'' he said.

Sanders was trapped 2 miles inside the Powderhorn Coal Co.'s Roadside mine in western Colorado on Tuesday by a rock fall that buried him and the continuous-mining machine he was operating. The machine's steel-barred cab covered him and saved his life.

But the tons of rock that smashed into the cab crumpled it, leaving Sanders hunched over, his head jammed between his knees until the rescuers freed him from his prison.

''There were rock falls all the time. I could feel the push on the top of my head,'' Sanders said. ''It sounded like thunder with loud booms all the time. I kept thinking about my wife and my six children.''

Later, he told his mother in a phone call to Carlsbad, N.M., ''Mama, I've never been through anything like that before and I never want to again.''

Sanders was expected to remain at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction for observation until Friday, said hospital spokesman Steve Ward.

Dr. Jim Crowell said Sanders had a small cut above his left eye and bruises, scrapes and muscle strains. He also was dehydrated, but Crowell said the miner's condition was ''excellent, considering.''

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors planned to begin their investigation Friday, a spokesman said.

Fellow miners suffered setback after setback in their rescue efforts, as rubble kept falling and Sanders shouted just a few feet away.

He was in the dark most of the time, rationing his battery-powered cap lamp. He had no food, no water, until Darrell Malone, 37, reached in and grabbed his hand at 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

''It's hard to describe how it was to touch another human being,'' Sanders said.

''There's so many miners who get trapped and don't get out,'' he said. ''I want to tell about the guys who got me out. It was incredible.''

Malone and Gary DeGarmo dug through for the initial contact, but it was another 11/2 hours before they could cut through the cab enough to pull Sanders out.

Sanders' wife, Debbie, who remained at home with the couple's children, ages 2 through 12, throughout the ordeal, called it ''hell - just a nightmare.''

She said she thought of the December disaster in Utah in which 27 miners died. ''This proves there are some happy endings,'' she said.

Sanders said he is always afraid when working in the mine.

''But it's a job. What can I say?'' he said.

Powderhorn Coal employs 210 people at the mine, which has been open since 1974 in its modern era and operated without a single fatality, said assistant general manager Dale Fenwick.