Chile rescue hits home for Sunshine Mine survivor

WALLACE, IDAHO - As the world watches with anticipation as each of the 33 miners are rescued in Chile, Silver Valley resident Ron Flory knows all too well what each of those men have endured. Flory survived the 1972 Sunshine Mine Fire.

The Sunshine Mine near Wallace is the site of the deadliest mining disaster in US history, a 1972 fire that killed 91 miners. Years after his own rescue, watching the rescue of 33 miners unfold in Chile hits close to home for Flory.

?It brings back memories,? Flory said. ?I just can't fathom being down there that long."

When fire erupted in the Sunshine Mine on May 2, 1972 Flory and fellow miner Tom Wilkinson were trapped 4,800 feet below ground, fleeing from the smoke and unaware that 91 fellow miners were killed in the blaze. Flory and Wilkinson were the sole survivors.

?It was just the right place as the right time. A guardian angel was definitely watching over us,? he said.

Flory and Wilkinson spent eight uncertain days below ground, with some fresh air and scraps from lunch pails keeping them alive.

?We tried to figure out in our minds what they were doing to get down to us. We knew they had to come down to get us out," Flory said.

As time wore on the darkness and isolation took its toll until the day a beam of light appeared.

?As soon as we saw the light again, we started beating on the pipes and scared the hell out of the guys who were coming back to meet us," he said.

Now as a similar story unfolds thousands of miles away Ron watches as miners, men like him and Tim Wilkinson, are pulled to safety to be reunited with their friends and families.

?It was really a good feeling to get out, when we got out."