Ronald Adley, trapped in a tiny, underground cell last Tuesday, finally reached safety today, hours before two fellow miners were found dead and tests left little hope for the survival of five others still missing.
The developments took place as an atmosphere of bitter tension and sorrow developed outside the Kocher Coal Co.'s Porter Tunnel mine here. Dozens of persons have kept an around the-clock vigil here since Tuesday, when a wall of water swept through the mine, splintering and scattering rock and debris.
The two bodies were found today within 70 feet of the closet-size cavity where Adley, 37, spent 116 hours. Rescue workers slipped down his escape tunnel and found the body of Ralph Renninger, 40, lying atop a huge pile of debris.
The body of Donald E. Shoffler, 41, the fourth man to die in the mine accident, was found under a four-foot pile of loose coal farther down the passage.
Renninger's body was removed from the mine but treacherous conditions stalled attempts to remove Shoffler's body.
Asked how Adley had survived and the others had not, Sam Klinge, a company nine foreman, said, "It was a miracle, that's all I can say."
Adley, the father of two, refused to meet with reporters. He is said to have been offered $10,000 for exclusive rights to his story. He apparently was in as good physical condition as could be expected after such an ordeal. Spokesman said he had no broken bones or open wounds.
Walter J. Vicinelly, Pennsylvania commissioner of deep mine safety, said rescuers finally penetrated the roughly 50-foot-thick block of coal that had separated them from the trapped miner at 8:05 a.m. and "Adley was on the other side looking at us. He said, 'Pass the jackhammer [a hand-held mine drill ] over to me.' Then he cut the hole large enough to crawl through."
Klinger asked the freed miner, if he wanted a stretcher. "Hell no, I want to walk," Adley was quoted as saying.
Joking and thanking each of his rescuers, he walked and climbed 800 feet up ladders and through tunnels to board a mantrip, or small rail car, which took him and the other then to the surface.
About 100 yards outside the mine entrance he quickly climbed from the rail car into an ambulance without making a greeting or gesture. He looked so much like soot-covered rescuers that few of the two doane reporters, present cluld identify him.
The dozens of friends and relatives of the missing miners keeping vigil were told around 11 a.m. that a four man rescue team had found the two bodies. One woman, shaking with grief, was led to a car. Anohter woman crumpled, sobbing loudly in the crisp air.
At 11:20, all activity on Big Lick Mountain was ordered silenced. Three dynamite blasts were set off above shaft 18 of the Porter Tunnel mine, the area where the missing miners were thought to be.
This was a test to see if anyone was alive inside the huge mountain. According to federal officials, every miner is given a sticker to paste inside his hard hat. The sticker insturcts him to bang the hat loudly against the mine wall if he hears such blasts while trapped so rescuers will know he is alive. Siesmic monitors can pick up the noise.
No such banging noise was picked up after the first series of blasts today, according to John Shutack, an official of the Federal Mine Enforcement and Safety Administration. A second series of three blasts were set off. Still no reply, which added credibility to speculation that the five missing men are dead.
Sophisticated in the cruel ways of the mountains, the families of the trapped miners have known as much for days. But they have kept hoping as they sat in a special bus reserved for them on mine property, or stood stoically on the soggy, black cinders looking at the mine entryway.
They talk little, holding their emotions within. Every so often, their grief spills out. Fearing loss of a husband, son or father, women clutch one another, softly sobbing. men wander off alone on roads leading from the mine, their thoughts buried in silence.
Bitter resentment of the news media state and mine officials has been growing all week.
In one incident, the grieving family of Philip Sabatino, whose body was found Wednesday, had wandered outside the mine office after being told of his death. Family members, sobbing heavily, immediately were surroundered by a half dozen television camera crews and 20 to 30 reporters, some sticking microphones in their faces.
In another incident, a Philadelphia TV reporter shoved a microphone at an official who had described Adley's spirit as "good," "But what about the spirits of the others?" the reporter asked, referring to the missing men.
Resentment against government and mine officials was fanned by incorrect or misleading informationn about the rescue effort and reached a fever pitch at 2 a.m. today.
One relative, a miner himself, then told Jack Tisdale, the ranking federal mine official here, "The families are angry. If we don't get some answers, we're going to start asking some pretty hard questions that you won't like at all."
Families and reporters had been incorrectly by federal and state officials that rescue workers had broken through to Adley at 8:45 Saturday night, more than 12 hours before that actually happened, and were promised that he would be to the surface within 90 minutes.
More than 175 persons gathered around the mine entrance, anxiously awaiting Adley's appearance. They stood, bracing against the bitterly cold wind for three hours without hearing a further word from officials.
Carol Kreiser, Adley's sister, was outraged. "It wouldn't have been so bad if they'd told us the truth to begin with. When they said, 'We've broken through,' we thougth he was coming out. And then to wair three hours. My mother, she's 71, and they wouldn't even give her a place to sit or nothing."
The delay, at least the sixth since Tuesday, also created a huge division among rescue officials. In a rare, i a.m. meeting, a shouting match broke out among federal, state and company officials over the issue as the families looked on, mystified.
State and federal officials later blamed the mixup on a communications breakdown between rescuers inside and outside the mine.