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. Robinson

    My uttermost respect and admiration are for the constant rescue efforts and the sucess that people provided from all over the world!!! I am very grateful for the encouragement that TV viewers world-wide fed the miners and their families. May the love of God continue strengthening the human spirit and hence, always help one another.

    October 14, 2010 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Marie M. Rivera

    Thank God and all who worked to rescue the miners.

    October 14, 2010 at 5:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. Greg H.

    This is a truly amazing story. Im touched deeply by the miners courage. Just imagine yourself in there shoes.

    October 14, 2010 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. Penny

    Thanks to all involved in the safe rescue of the miners. Too many to mention. Thanks again.

    October 14, 2010 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kristin

    I love these comments and I fully agree. No one wanted that political debate! I also switched to another network. One who kept their finger on the pulse of the people. CNN you failed. Moran is an appropriate lable.

    October 14, 2010 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. congratulation!

    congratulation chilean mining, i work in CODELCO Chile, Div. El teniente, mine.

    October 14, 2010 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. rith rodgers

    just a question, because i have not been following this as I should have but, why are all the workers so clean in the photos just after their rescue? clean shaven, clean work uniforms, clean hands,nails, even their safety harnesses are clean. were they given these down in the well? clean clothes, razors with soap and water, etc. I don't know about mine work I have to admit, but i know about above ground work and, one gets filthy just after 8 hours.

    October 14, 2010 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Thata

    us people dont have heart they only think about money and be d top of t world for a wile it was but now because of d people in here they dont have heart only a piece of stone in there this country is going miserable... and will only get bad...sry truuuee

    October 14, 2010 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. María

    Felicidades por el éxito obtenido en este rescate! Fueron héroes tanto los 33 mineros, como los 6 rescatistas que fueron capaces de ingresar a la mina,´es una lástima que a los Rescatistas los medios de comunicación no les dió el merito que merecian, ya que estos fueron héroes tambien... Felicidades Chile y muchas bendiciones!!! : )

    October 14, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Fly

    I !!!

    October 15, 2010 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. Fly

    I am a

    October 15, 2010 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. Fly

    FaLun Gong

    October 15, 2010 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. Flyer


    October 15, 2010 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Flyer

    It is well known that my master(Falun Gong) made an entrance for the rescuer to keep the miners alive with invisible power. Meanwhile , the miners′energy was derived from my master, otherwise, they can not insist in 69 days.

    October 15, 2010 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
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