Charles Simpson, Jr. was rescued 19 hours after a roof fall accident at the Slate Top Coal Company mine near Woodbine, Kentucky.
Editors note: Every so often, I am privileged to hear first-hand from those that have participated in the rescue of miners over the years. Retired MSHA District 3 Manager, Bob Cornett, was one the responders to the Slate Top Mine roof fall accident and has granted his permission to post the following story of his experience:
I was part of the rescue of Charles Simpson, Jr. from Kentucky. I talked to Charles through the night. It was 18 to 19 inch coal. Imagine trying to swing a sledge hammer to break rock in that.
In the limited room we had to swing a hammer, we chipped what we could. Then we would stretch out lying on our bellies and rake an arm full of material down our body length to the next person, who in turn would rake it on back to the next person for about 50 feet to the drop bottom scoop. We could not get it any closer because of all the timbers we set.
When I left at around 6 a.m. on the 16th, I did not expect him to survive. He had seemed to weaken through the night and we only made a couple of feet of progress all night. But after I left the sandstone changed to a softer rock and they were able to get to him. That was my Christmas miracle.