As you are watching the live video feeds from the San Jose Mine in Chile, look past the miners and watch the smooth choreography of the rescuers as the Fenix comes up and goes back down. I have seen rescues, trained for rescue work, and participated in rescues; this team is world-class. It’s the biggest news story of the day, maybe the year, and they are as calm and methodical as if they were directing traffic on a village side street.
The scene commander – the guy standing off to the side with the radio – keeps everyone aware of what is happening. If things go sour, he’s the one everyone will be looking to for guidance. So far, he’s having a boring day. Boring is good. I hope he stays bored.
The three men at the shaft are securely harnessed with a safety line that barely lets them reach the shaft. Any hole big enough to pull a man out of is big enough to fall into. Also, falling against the steel cable could be deadly. They may seem to be casually chatting much of the time, but one of them has his foot on the cable guide. If anything goes wrong with the capsule, he’ll feel the change in vibrations.
One rescuer is the emotional support for the waiting family member, keeping him or her calm and making sure they don’t dash into the rescue operation and foul things up. He’s “chatting and patting,” providing a bit of distraction.
Watch the hand-off between the cable guys and the capsule openers. It’s impressive how gently and quickly they give the miner a quick physical check, then get him unstrapped, out of the capsule, and out of the monitoring equipment. Unobtrusively, they are ready to grab any miner who is wobbly or faints.
As soon as the rescued miner is out of the Fenix, you can see a small team checking the cable connection, the electronics and getting it ready for the next miner.
The miner they just pulled up heads for a hug from the family member, thanks the rescue team and is quickly strapped into the gurney and taken to the medical station. The white tag on the miner’s jumpsuit probably has his medical records from the rescue team down below.
Down below, it’s quieter, but just as organized. As soon as the capsule touches down, one rescuer checks it out while the others get the miner ready with a hard hat, attach the monitoring equipment and strap him in. In just a few minutes, the capsule is going back up the shaft.
This is teamwork, this is communication. This is the way rescuers wish it could be all the time.
BBC News – Chile mine rescue, “, BBC News (live feed via Chilevision)