October 13th, 2010
08:19 PM ET

Last miner scheduled to emerge is group's captain

Luis Urzua entered the San Jose mine last August as a shift supervisor, intending to command his miners for about 12 hours. Sixty-nine days after a collapse trapped him and 32 others, he’s left as the man whose direction helped keep the group alive.

Urzua, 54, was the last of the 33 miners to be taken out of the mine in a rescue capsule, about a day after the first was rescued. He volunteered to stay in the miners' refuge 2,300 below the surface until all his men were safe.

As shift foreman, Urzua assumed command and control of the underground world that he and 32 fellow miners lived in since the collapse. His instructions to his men in the hours after the collapse - among them, to ration the little food and liquid that they had in a small refuge - are credited with keeping the group alive during the 17 days it took for rescuers to locate them with a probe and start sending them supplies.

He also kept the miners on 12-hour shifts and mapped out the area that was still accessible, dividing the space into work, sleep and sanitary areas, the Guardian newspaper reported.

"[He] is a leader in his field and has been for ages," Dr. Andreas llarena of the Chilean navy told the Guardian in September. "For a miner, their shift leader is sacred and holy. They would never think about replacing him. That is carved in stone - it is one of the commandments in the life of a miner."

Urzua told the Guardian for a story a few days ago that each miner played a part to keep the group functioning while it awaited rescue.

"We had to be strong, all the workers in the mine fulfilled their roles, as journalists, as spokesmen, and we worked hard for our own rescue," Urzua said.

His voice was the first that rescuers heard after verbal contact was made with the trapped miners in August. “We are well and hoping that you will rescue us," he said.

On Wednesday night with the entire world watching, his wish came true.

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Filed under: Chile • Chile miners trapped
soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Sisy Orobitg

    CNN, you should have had uninterrupted coverage of this historical event vs. the live debate. I switched to Univision to watch it live. I am sick of politics and the rescue of the miners in Chile meant focusing on important factors of faith, hope, team work, solidarity, camaraderie; a unity of a people that are simple in their hearts, so unlike many Americans that are engulfed in the mess we are in and seem not to get out of...

    October 13, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Pedro

    si hay algo que tenemos los chilenos son huevos/cojones o como quieran llamarlo... and learn some spanish people, there are several hundred thousands of spanish speaking people living in your country

    October 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Yep. 12 million of them illegally. Only thing we need to learn is the phone number for ICE.

      October 14, 2010 at 3:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Javier Burgoa

    VIVA CHILE! I am proud to be a Chilean. I hope this works as an example for others to follow how a resilient people, with the help of GOD, can beat the odds. I hope US can really unite in a common goal, as well as the rest of Latin America. Thank to all that kept this country in their hearts and their prayers. Thaks to the Chilean people, to the Chilean Engineering, to the Chilean leaders and foremost thanks to those 33 heroes.

    October 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Luis Perez

    Sometimes when we are mired in economic distress, political divide, global war, racial divide, global catastrophes, and the loss of our homes and jobs, it is heart warming to see 33 souls rise from the depths of hell and live to see another day. If you happened to watch any of the coverage of the miners making the journey back to the world it is a great blessing, and maybe might remind us of the goodness in the world

    October 13, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chile you can be proud!!

    Viva Chile!!! – Shows what people can do to help their brothers and sisters – My faith in humanity is renewed – Bravo!!!

    October 13, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ken dahel

    MSNBC had an accident last night. They credited the US drill team for getting the job done. CNN didn't ever credit the fact this is another example of the US coming to the rescue of another country thankless to say the least. Shouldn't AC360 be renamed OH MY OH MY OH MY.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ken dahel

    Anderson Cooper sure likes to say the words moving the latino men up and down the shaft. Is that from "personal" experience.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. FSM_Botherer

    When other countries' citizens are blowing up or stoning people, goading/assaulting gays, or appearing on magazine covers for frivolous reasons, it's refreshing to see a positive, life-affirming real-life story of leadership, brothership, integrity, determination, and motivation. What a wonderful ending to an uncertain story. Why do people waste their time and brain cells on histrionic and attention-seeking "reality" TV when the real world offers so much that is profound, beautiful, and nuanced? Who of us would be as brave as the first rescuer, patient as the technicians who had to make sure their measures were all in place and tested before bringing up the first miner, as disciplined as the crew who had to maintain their sanity and health and obey command (especially in the first few black days of rationing), or as wise and authoritative as the shift foreman? The world needs to be inspired by these human cooperative traits, and spend less time on the destructive.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JustPlainJoe

    .............. :-)) most excellent ending.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Melanie

    Does somebody knows the name of Luis Urzua's son? the one who hugged him and received him? I would like to know, I think I've seen him before but I can't remember his name.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Alex Campbell

    In Chile, the miners had quite a bit of support underground. TV for soccer games, food, special clothes to thwart the humidity, cameras and phones to talk to family. Miners in the capitalist US get the one finger salute when they're trapped underground.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • jerry

      thank to the government

      October 14, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Happy Customer

    I just finished watching on CNN network t.v. the last miner escaping the shaft followed by the President of Chile and his public address to the nations from a podium setup there (translated of course). My question is why did the Chilean President snub MR. Jeff Hart drilling team after rescue? He thanked many South American nations for support including Isrial but not a word about the U.S. efforts and support in NASA or Mr. Hart and his American team. I fear this is why many American do not feel appreciated when we help other nations and frankly holds us back from wanting to care.
    I am happy for the families and I'm sure the money Mr. Hart recieved from the Mine will give him a sence of satisfaction but not the same as "job well done" from people that care. Makes you wonder....

    October 13, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Nice to finally see an intelligent response here. It wasn't just Mr. Hart and his team (who cut the rescue time by two months), but the percussion bit itself that drilled the opening, NASA donations of food and technology including designing the rescue capsule, audio/visual equipment, clothing and gear for the miners and rescue teams, etc. Their president is a conservative, so I can assure you that his intent was merely to snub ObaMao. Now, normally I would relish such a motive, but this event was bigger than just our lousy President, so the snub, in turn, dug deeper than just the administration...something he probably didn't intend. Trust me, this isn't over. We'll see damage control over the next several days, including a public thanks from Pinera in the next day or two.

      October 14, 2010 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. yeah

    And these Chilean guys are hot!! Now that's what I call men! Seriously, so glad they are all out and safe tonight.

    October 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hombresincamisa

    The whole world is impressed with these men. No whiners, no crying, just faith, trust, humility and selflessness. My heart was with these men all the way.

    October 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. HeIsGod

    To God be all Glory, Honor and Highly Praise!!!!!

    Thank you Lord for the safety of these men and for the knowledge and wisdom that You have given to those who worked so hard to bring these Minors back to their love ones. Bless each and everyone of them with your perfect Peace that surpassess all understanding! Amen!

    October 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
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