SHEPPTON, Pa. — The plight of a pair of coal miners trapped in a collapsed Pennsylvania mine, and their dramatic and unlikely rescue after 14 days underground, riveted the public's attention in August 1963. "MINE MIRACLE," read the banner headline atop the Los Angeles Times.
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.
Miners David Fellin, Henry "Hank" Throne and Louis Bova were about 300 feet underground on Aug. 13, 1963, when the mine caved in, trapping them. Bova, 54, became separated from the other two and was never found.
Fellin, 58, and Throne, 28, found themselves entombed is a small chamber, no more than 2 feet wide and 10 feet long. For the first six days, they had no contact with the outside. They survived by drinking stagnant, foul mine water, and they kept warm by breathing on each other's necks and rubbing each other's legs.
Rescuers had lost nearly all hope when they began a last-ditch attempt to find the men by drilling a 6-inch borehole into the collapsed mine. A light and a microphone was dropped into the hole, and a rescuer shouted, "Look for the light!" He cupped his ear to the hole, then jumped to his feet and yelled, "They're alive! I hear them! They're alive!"
A larger hole was bored with a drill provided by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, and the men were finally pulled out early the morning of Aug. 27.
"I was 25 at the time and even back then, I sensed (the rescue) was a miracle," said Ronnie Sando, who was among the rescuers.
He plans to attend Sunday's commemoration, as does Bova's son, John, who was only 8 months old at the time of the collapse.
Fellin died in 1980 at age 74. Throne was 63 when he died in 1998.