Masked man guides rescue of illegal miner

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By SHAUN SMILLIE

 

Roodepoort - Spider-Man had to do something. His friend had phoned him on Sunday night and told him that three illegal miners were trapped. He had to act.

And it was this action on Monday night that was partially responsible for saving one of the men when rescuers had thought all three were dead.

The three illegal miners had entered the abandoned Durban Deep mine near Roodepoort on Saturday and had collapsed after inhaling methane.

Yesterday, emergency services were mobilised, but for most of the day, they were unable to enter the mine as they had to wait for permission from the Department of Mineral Resources.

While they waited, the illegal miners attempted their own rescue – and one of the rescuers was Spider-Man.

Spider-Man isn’t the illegal miner’s real name.

He wanted to hide his identity, and that is why he was wearing a red Spider-Man mask yesterday.

He claimed he wore this mask while he worked and that mining was in his blood.

The rescue team had tried to reach the men, who were near shaft 10, but were driven back by gas.

“We tried to pull one of the guys out but the gas was too much, so we had to leave him,” said Spider-Man.

Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (JEMS) personnel were able to enter the abandoned mine only at about 4pm yesterday.

Rescuers were expecting it to be a body-recovery mission.

Colleagues of the three said the men had “simply fallen asleep” on Saturday while working.

“They began choking, then fell asleep, lying on their sides,” said one of the illegal miners, who did not want to give his name.

Even though he had felt dizzy, this miner was able to escape.

Initially, six members of the urban search-and-research unit were sent into the mine to ascertain the levels of gas.

They discovered concentrations of methane.

The second stage of the operation was to send teams down with stretchers.

They needed guides to show them where the men were. One of the men to volunteer was Spider-Man, who took the lead after grabbing a headlamp and a set of new batteries.

When they got close to the trapped men, they could see their headlamps still shining in the dark.

“One of the men raised his arm, and we knew he was alive,” said Spider-Man.

The rescue team had to send an urgent message to the surface, calling for a breathing apparatus.

“We were all surprised. They checked their vitals and found one of them was breathing,” said JEMS spokeswoman Nana Radebe.

The miner was taken to Leratong Hospital. After recovering the injured man, Spider-Man headed off home for a night’s rest.

Today, rescuers planned to recover the dead miners, and Spider-Man wanted to be there to help guide them in.

The Star

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