Search and Rescue Team

Search and rescue team

Search and Rescue Team 1

There is a "Search and Rescue Team" that consists of 24 people trained by disaster experts. It is ready for national or international disasters. The team has the NIBRA certificate that is valid in the European Union.

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Rescue effort

On 26 April a remote-controlled earth mover began clearing the rock underground. On the morning of 27 April at 7:22 a.m., the corpse of one of the miners was found in the shaft. At around 8 p.m., the body was retrieved and was identified as Larry Paul Knight, 44, of Launceston. He was the driver of the telehandler. Rescue workers did not proceed further through the rubble past the back end of the telehandler because it was unsafe, instead choosing to blast a new tunnel across from the main decline to the side tunnel, aiming to come out in front of the telehandler. On 29 April they began blasting a new tunnel, detonating at least six large explosive charges to form the tunnel. The blasts dislodged rock inside the cage of the telehandler, which Webb and Russell attempted to clear, although as the blasts came closer, rock was dislodged faster than they could clear it. Russell recorded the date and time of each blast on his clothing, so that if they died as a result of the blasting, the rescuers would know that they had been alive prior to a particular blast. Both Webb and Russell also wrote letters to their families on their clothing. The two men sang "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers (the only song they both knew) in order to keep up their spirits, as they waited for successive blasts to occur in the tunnel. At about 5.45 pm on 30 April two rescuers, Pat Ball the underground manager and Steve Saltmarsh, mine foreman, breached safety protocols by entering the 925 level, to the rockfall and yelled out. Webb and Russell began yelling "We are in here!" and this was how the rescuers found out they were alive. Later one rescuer found a direct route to the trapped miners, across the rubble in the side tunnel, and was able to get close enough to the basket of the telehandler to shake Russell's hand. This was where a remote-controlled loader had got to the back of the teleloader, but this route was deemed unsafe for rescuing them. Webb and Russell themselves did not want the rescuers to attempt to reach them through the rubble, because to do so would require them to cut through the wire on the side of the cage, which was under considerable pressure from the rock above. The two men were afraid that cutting the cage would cause it to collapse. Rescuers immediately halted blasting in the access tunnel, and instead drilled a smaller hole through the approximately 14.5 metres of rock between the head of the access tunnel and the part of the side tunnel where the miners were trapped. Webb and Russell directed the work by listening to the sound of the drilling and judging the direction. The hole was about 90 millimetres in diameter. A PVC pipe was used to line the hole, which was used to deliver fresh water, food and communications equipment to the men. On 1 May 2006 rescuers were still 12 metres from the miners. They were also later sent a digital camera, a torch, dry clothes, magazines, iPods including music from the Foo Fighters and Kevin Bloody Wilson (upon request), deodorant and toothpaste. They also received letters from their families, and were able to write letters in return. In one letter to his wife, Russell wrote "It's not much of a room we have up here." Russell asked for the previous Saturday's newspaper because he said he would be looking for a new job, after joking about losing his current one for lazing about. One mine official questioned why Russell would want to look for a job, since he already had one. Russell, in a later interview, said that he had replied, "I told him to stick it up his ..." They were also sent medical supplies, with which Webb was able to treat the injuries to Russell's leg, with advice from paramedics. It was also on 1 May that the two men asked about Larry Knight, and rescuers told them that he had been found dead. The rescue effort by drilling was put off on Monday 1 May because of the danger of another collapse. It was decided to use a raise borer anchored in concrete, with the last load of the concrete being delivered before dawn on Wednesday, 3 May 2006. The machine cut a horizontal tunnel one metre round. Later that day it was announced that the drilling to go the final 12 metres would commence within hours. At about 6:45 p.m., drilling of a 20 cm pilot hole for the raise borer commenced. Using the normal procedure for this machinery, a pilot hole was drilled, for the larger diameter borer to follow. This took more than three days to complete. According to Beaconsfield mine manager Matthew Gill, the quartz rock which was drilled through was five times harder than concrete. The drill was capable of drilling through it at 1 metre per hour, but it was going much more slowly because of the danger of further rock falls, at a rate of around 460 millimetres per hour. Drilling of the rescue tunnel commenced on Thursday 4 May at about 8 p.m. guided by the completed pilot hole. It was gouged out to one metre and was planned to come up underneath the men's cage after passing through 16 metres of rock. The last phase was to involve a miner using hand tools to create an opening whilst lying on his back. As at 7 a.m. on Saturday 6 May the raise borer had drilled about 11 metres of the 14.5 metre rescue tunnel. The mine decided on the shortened route late on Friday night. The major drilling operation was completed by 6 p.m. on Saturday, with only a few metres remaining to reach the trapped miners. Several hours work dismantling and removing the boring machine from the escape tunnel were required before the final phase of the rescue commenced. On 7 May the rescuers reached a belt of hard rock that they found difficult to penetrate. As the jack hammers they were using had little effect, they reverted to using low-impact charges. On 8 May the horizontal tunnel was completed, with rescuers beginning tunnelling upwards in the short vertical tunnel, since the horizontal tunnel had been dug lower than the level of the miners. At about 9:30 p.m. a probe passed through the rock below where the miners were located, which indicated there was only a metre between them, including 400 millimetres of hard rock. After 14 nights, at 4:27 a.m., rescuers Glenn Burns, Donovan Lightfoot and Royce Gill finally reached the men, one of them yelling "I can see your light" when he broke through the ground which was separating him from the miners, to which the miners replied "I can see your light too". Brant Webb was freed at 4:47 a.m. on 9 May, followed by Todd Russell at 4:54 a.m. They were driven up the spiral decline of the mine, arriving at a medical station at the base of the vertical shaft from the surface at about 5:30 a.m. They were checked by a doctor, and then sent up the lift towards the surface. About thirty metres from the surface, they got out of their wheelchairs, which were moved to the rear of the lift so as to be out of sight. At 5:58 a.m. both men walked out of the lift cage unaided "... punching their fists in the air to the cheers of the Beaconsfield crowds who had gathered outside the mine gate. Wearing their fluoro jackets and lit miner's helmets, the men switched their safety tags to 'safe' on the mine out board before embracing family members who rushed to hug them." Both were then transported to Launceston General Hospital in nearby Launceston just after 6 a.m. local time. Russell had an injured knee, and a damaged vertebra which put pressure on his sciatic nerve, while Webb had injuries to both knees, several vertebrae, and his neck.

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