The miners had only enough food for two days, but Mr. Urzua convinced everyone that the food would have to be rationed until help arrived. That decision made the miners survive the first 17 days.
The painstaking process of hoisting 33 miners trapped nearly a half-mile below ground for more than two months in northern Chile was completed Wednesday night, less than a day after it began, ending a saga that gripped a nation that never gave up hope.
“I hope this will never happen again,” said the last man out of the gold and copper mine, shift foreman Luis Urzua, upon reaching the surface, as he was embraced by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. “I’m proud of being Chilean.”
Rescue worker Manuel Gonzalez, the last person still in the mine, was hoisted to the surface around 11:30 p.m. ET.
It was Urzua, 54, who first established contact with the outside world on August 22, 17 days after the mine collapsed on August 5, trapping him and his men.
It was Urzua who divided the cans of tuna that helped keep the men alive until they were discovered, and it was he who organized the 32 others into three work shifts.
It was he who pored over diagrams that helped rescuers plan the men’s escape, and it was he who insisted on being the last of the trapped men to be freed.
- Chile mine rescue: success as all 33 miners are freed (telegraph.co.uk)
- No.33: Miners all free (theage.com.au)
- Last of the trapped Chilean miners hauled to the surface (guardian.co.uk)
- Shift leader helped Chilean miners stay calm, live (foxnews.com)
- Final Chilean Miner Rescued (outsidethebeltway.com)