Everyone called him "Snap." His sisters gave him the nickname because he was quick, fast to get out of scrapes. He prided himself on being fit, and did push-ups in his underground cell while rescue workers chipped toward him for five days.
When his neighborhood bartender, Bill Ritzman, a former coal miner, heard that Ronald L. Adley, 37, was trapped with nine other miners in the Kocher Coal Co. Porter Tunnel mine here, he told a reporter, "If anyone gets out of that alive, he will."
"He's quick, awfully quick, and he takes good care of himself," Ritzman said today. "He has a good head on his shoulders and he knew what to do."
Adley, a father of two, has just finished lunch with friends and coworkers Ralph Renninger, 40, and Donald E. Shoffler, 41, last Tuesday when a torrent of water crashed through the mine.
He survived when others didn't, because he was in the right place at the wrong time and was quick enough to get ahead of the water.
The associated Press quoted one mine official as saying, "Adley told us he saw the water and start running, then he had to swim. He turned to the other men and yelled, "Get up the side, hurry." They tried to outrun it. They didn't make it."
Walter J. Cicinelly, Pennsylvania commissioner of deep mine safety, said today that the flood blasted through a main tunnel and began moving at a tidal-wave force up the 45-degree Chute 17 where Adley, Renninger and Shoffler worked.
The water made its way six feet up the steep passage, apparently drowning Renninger and fatally injuring Shoffler, whose body was found Sunday under a four-foot pile of debris.
But, Viceinelly said, "an air bubble formed at the end of the Chute. This was a void which kept the water from advancing."
Adley, a small, wiry man, latched onto a splintered mine timber support inside the air bubble within seconds of the disater, in which four miners died and five others are missing and presumed dead.
He didn't hear another human sound for 30 hours, although he could see the faint flicker of Renninger's latern, which had been ripped from his body, about 50 feet down the dark chute.
"When we brought him out, he said he did push-ups in there." Vicinell said. "He did push-ups to keep warm and keep occupied."
Adley first heard the sound of rescuers at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday, the day after the disaster. He responded by tapping the coal wall three times, the traditional signal of a miner in distress.
By Thursday rescuers had drilled a three-inch in diameter hole through the 50 feet of coal and hard sulfurous rock that separated them from Adely, and established voice communication. Government and company officials soon surmised that Renninger and Shoffler were dead. But they didn't mention this to the trapped miner or the families of the others. They also ordered Adley not to venture from his four-by-six-by-eight-foot perch a mile underground.
"We didn't know his mental condition, we didn't known his physical condition," said John Shutack, a federal Mine Enforcement Safety Administration official.
"You never know what being trapped underground might do to a man. We didn't want him to become hysterical.
"We tried to be cheerful in all our contacts with him. We tired to avoid saying anything negative."
Fellow miners jokingly yelled down the bore hole, which also was used to poke supplies and food to Adley, "Do you want us to send you a woman? Do you want us to send you whisky?"
When this became known, it upset Ritzman, who described Adley as a "good family man," who took karate lessons with his 8-year-old son and who "never drank anything but a couple of seven-ounce bottles of Budweiser."
As it turned out, the veil of cheerfulness wasn't necessary. "We found he was a very strong-willed individual," said Shutack. "He was in better shape than a lot of the rescuers. We were trying to cheer him up. but he was cheering us up.