Saturday, April 26, 2008

Man Survives 500-Foot Fall Into Mine

A man survived a 500-foot fall into a strip mine Friday, astounding rescuers who spent hours on a risky descent into the abyss to bring him back out.
Police said Nathan Bowman was trespassing on coal company property around 1 a.m. Friday when he slipped and fell into the Springdale Pit, an inactive mine about 700 feet deep, 3,000 feet long and 1,500 feet wide.
Bowman tumbled down a jagged slope and then free-fell several hundred feet, his descent broken by a rock ledge not far from the bottom of the pit, said Coaldale Police Chief Timothy Delaney, who helped direct the rescue effort.
"If you look at that drop, there was no way somebody could survive that," Delaney said.
Bowman, 23, of Tamaqua, was in serious condition Friday night at St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem. The extent and nature of his injuries was not clear, although rescuer John Fowler said it appeared he suffered a number of fractures.
Bowman and a friend were walking around the pit when he went over the side. The friend called 911, and Coaldale police and firefighters began a frantic search, according to Delaney.
State police got into the act several hours later, using a helicopter, floodlights and thermal imaging to try to pinpoint Bowman's location in the pit, about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
"It got really, really dangerous," Delaney said. "My guys were fantastic; they were heroes, risking their lives in total darkness."
The search was called off at daybreak. Shortly thereafter, Delaney went to the offices of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co., which owns the Springdale Pit, to notify officials of the situation.
"I said, 'Let's take a ride over there and show me where it occurred,'" said Fowler, 40, a project manager at the company.
Their luck was better this time.
"Within about three minutes, we found him," Fowler said. "I thought I could hear a muffled call for help. We yelled to him and asked him where he was, and he said he thought he was on a ledge."
Fowler, who moonlights as a state firefighter instructor, and a Coaldale police sergeant scouted a relatively safe route to Bowman and stayed with him until more help arrived.
Two firefighters rappelled down to the ledge, loaded Bowman onto a basket and tied themselves to it. Then all three were painstakingly hoisted up.
Bowman was lucid when he arrived at the top of the pit late Friday morning, wanting his harness loosened, asking that someone call his brother and expressing fear about riding in a medical helicopter, said Sarah Curran Smith, a vice president at Lehigh Coal.
Bowman's survival is "pretty unbelievable," she said. "I think the universe has bigger plans for Nathan. I hope he realizes that."
Bowman faces charges including defiant trespass, according to Delaney.

Amazing Rescues
Firefighters worked for over an hour in March to rescue Shooter, a 2-month-old foal, from a septic tank at a farm in Citra, Fla. Shooter apparently followed his mother, Reba, out of an enclosure. Reba then walked over the tank, and her weight either broke or displaced the cover, and Shooter fell in. He had some minor scrapes but was OK.
Firefighters found Kyson Stowell, 11 months, in a muddy field after a tornado flung him 100 yards away from his home in Castalian Springs, Tenn. in February. The rescuers first thought he was a doll. Kyson suffered only minor injuries. His mother, Kerri Stowell, died in the storm.
A man tosses his 9-month-old nephew out the window of a burning apartment building in Ludwigshafen, Germany in February. The baby, Onur Celar, fell four stories into the arms of a policeman. His parents and uncle also survived the blaze, but his two-year-old brother was killed.
A snowplow driver discovered Thomas and Tamitha Garner after they were stranded for 12 days when their truck got stuck in the snow in southern Utah in January. The couple rationed what little food they had, started the truck occasionally for heat and then spent three days hiking through deep snow in search of help.
Christopher Dominguez walks to an ambulance after a helicopter rescued him and his family from the snowy mountains in Butte County, Calif. in December. He, his father and two siblings spent three nights in sub-zero temperatures after getting lost looking for a Christmas tree. They found shelter inside a drainage pipe and wrote "help" in the snow.
Rescuers help Shneur Zalman Friedman, 8, into an ambulance in August after the Israeli boy spent six hours floating alone at night in the corrosive waters of the Dead Sea. Friedman was swimming with family members when currents swept him away from shore. He was found about 2 miles from shore -- dehydrated and scared but otherwise healthy.
"Subway hero" Wesley Autrey, above, jumped onto the tracks to save a fellow passenger from an oncoming train at a New York City subway station in January 2007. Cameron Hollopeter had fallen between the tracks after suffering a seizure. Autrey rolled Hollopeter into a gap between the rails just as the train entered the station.

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