Whatever happened to… the 33 trapped Chilean miners

On this episode of the Global News podcast Whatever Happened To…?, journalist Erica Vella revisits the story of the 33 trapped Chilean miners.

On Aug. 5, 2010, the San Jose Mine in Chile collapsed while 33 men were underground. Mario Sepulveda, who has worked in the mining industry for almost two decades, spoke to Global News through a translator and said he remembers the day vividly.

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“I remember that day as if it were today. There’s not a single day that passes without remembering that day,” he said.

“I didn’t really want to go to work because the San Jose Mine, for a while, had bad security issues, so I didn’t really want to go, but the responsibility and the goals as a father to carry on with your life projects motivated me. I didn’t want to be absent, so I went to work and I started my shift.”

At approximately 2 p.m., Sepulveda said he began hearing really loud noises.

Read more: Drilling begins on rescue shaft for trapped Chilean miners

“It was shocking. Impactful, really. I felt a bothersome sound, very, very loud, very loud, despite the fact that I was in another section. My co-workers were working in different sections from me, and I felt very strong noises, very troubling,” he said, adding that he would soon realize that what he was hearing was the mine collapsing.

“There was no visibility, there was dust and the heartbreaking and guttural screams of my co-workers — that moment was horrible.”

Above ground, teams of people had been working to find the trapped miners, unaware if they had survived, but on Aug. 22, contact was made with the 33 men after a drill broke through.

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Sepulveda described the moment, comparing it to his love of soccer.

“When I saw the drill I pictured myself in the National Stadium of Chile winning the World Cup defeating Brazil or maybe Argentina, two of our greatest adversaries. So that’s how excited I was to know we were found and that we would get to see our family again,” he said.

Read more: Chile mining disaster survivors cheer on World Cup team in ad

“The people that love you for your defects and your virtues; that they’ll get to see you again. That is something you feel deeply.”

For 69 days in 2010, the world held its breath hoping for the safe return of 33 men trapped in a mine in Chile and people from all over the world helped in the rescue – including members of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Erica Vella speaks with one of the miners and members of the teams that helped in the rescue. She also finds out what changes were made to the mining industry following the collapse.

Contact:

Twitter: @ericavella

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

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