They buried Gary Lee Klinger, a 19-year-old coal miner, in soggy brown clay behind the United Brethren Church on Dry Creek Road today during a driving downpour.
He was the 23d man to die in the nation's coal mines since Jan. 1, the 451st to die since 1974. Most die in ones and twos and are quietly laid to rest in some isolated hillside.
But Klinger was the first miner to be found dead after a torrent of water swept through the Kocher Coal Co.'s Porter Tunnel mine this week. So there were television cameras there today to record the somber look on faces of his parents, Betty and Early Klinger, as they buried their only child.
The ceremony was short and simple. The tiny, white clapboard Church of Christ Christian Union was packed with friends - some of them young coal miners like Gary Lee - relatives and flowers.
Gary Lee was a shy, hard-working young man who liked to tinker with cars and hardly ever missed a service at the church. Just last month he received at 11-year pin for perfect attendance at Sunday school. Rev. John Clough, the pastor, said, "He was an ambitious, willing boy. There wasn't a lazy bone in his body."
His high school sweetheart, Pat Smith, sat beside Gary Lee's parents. Gary Lee had originally gone to work in a "bootleg," or independent mine, owned by his father, a sturdy, ruddy-faced man, after he was graduated from Tri-Valley High School in 1975. But, an old timer said outside the church, "I guess they thought it wouldn't be right working together in the same mine, if something happened, you know."
It was just after noon Tuesday when something did happen to Gary Lee Klinger. A huge wave of water swept through Porter Tunnel mine in Tower City, Pa., about 20 miles away. Some said that Gary Lee was a hero, that he'd started to rush to safety then turned back to warn others of the danger.
But Pastor Clough doubted that. It happened too fast, he said as he stood in the driving rain. "He and another boy climbed some timbers to escape the water, but Gary Lee slipped and the water sucked him away."
Eight men are still in the mine four days later. Only one, Ronald Adley, 37, is known to be alive. He is living out a quite, lonely drama perched on a broken timber in a 4-by 6-by-8-foot alcove with a floor that slopes at a 45-degree angle deep inside Blue Lick Mountain as rescuers burrow around the clock to reach him.
He chews tobacco, sips from a vacuum bottle of soup, occasionally eats a Polish sausage sandwich and waits in the dimly lit chamber as water drips around him. Every so often he communicates with rescuers who are so close that he can hear their picks chopping at the hard, antracite coal.
Working in teams of twos, they have been digging with picks, jack-hammers and drills for two days, moving a foot or so each hour. But as of 1:40 p.m. today rescuers thought they were still 20 hours away from him. Periodically supplies are poked to him through a narrow hole drilled through the coal to his alcove.
Walter J. Vicinelly, Pennsylvania commissioner of deep mine safety, said work had been slowed as rescuers encountered the extremely hard coal and sulfur. "He doesn't have any idea when we'll get there," he said, "he knows we're working. He knows everyone is doing everything possible."
Meanwhile, hopes for the other seven entombed miners faded hourly. State and federal mine officials said large amounts of debris and fallen rock were blocking one shaft where the miners are thought to be.
Apparently realizing that they would be unable to penetrate that area for days, the officials said that they hired a private drilling contractor to drill a six-inch diameter hole from the top of the mountain 435 feet down into the shaft. A special television camera, two microphines, a loudspeaker asks if anyone is alive inside. If anyone is alive, they're instructed to speak into a microphone or tap the side of the mountain so that the sounds can be picked up by a seismic device.
This may take days, and is interpreted as meaning mine officials fear the men are dead.
Meanwhile, there is little friends and relatives of the trapped miners can do. So they spend their time waiting and wondering. Wondering if their men are alive. Wondering why coal mining is such a dangerous occupation. Wondering what Ronald Adley is doing.
John Leitzel, a miner of 17 years, was sitting in a Shell gas station, a short distance away from Adley's home in Reinerton, Pa., late today.
"I tell you the first night must have been the worst. He didn't know if anyone knew where he was," he said. "Anyone who has ever been inside a mountain during the middle of the night can imagine what it's like. The mountain groans and shifts. It sounds like a handful of marbles rubbing together. I tell you it's scary."