Oldest miner freed in Chile as rescue effort continues

Mario Gomez, 63, dropped to his knees clutching the Chilean flag

By Associated Press
Published October 13, 2010 4:27PM (UTC)
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The oldest of the 33 miners, Mario Gomez, has been freed from his underground prison. He dropped to his knees and bowed his head in prayer, clutching the Chilean flag.

The 63-year-old Gomez was pulled up from the ground and embraced by his wife, Lilianete Ramirez.

He is the most experienced of the group, first entering a mine shaft to work at the age of 12.

Gomez has silicosis, a lung disease common to miners. He has been on antibiotics and bronchial inflammation medicine.

Rescue order of the men pulled from the San Jose mine in Chile, with some details on each:

1. 12:04 a.m. -- Florencio Avalos, 31, the second-in-command of the miners, chosen to be first because he was in the best condition.

2. 1:10 a.m. -- Mario Sepulveda Espina, 40, who captivated Chileans with his engaging personality in videos sent up from underground.

3. 2:08 a.m. -- Juan Illanes, 52, a married former soldier who urged his fellow miners to be disciplined and organized while trapped.

4. 3:09 a.m. -- Carlos Mamani, 24, the lone Bolivian, started at the mine five days before the collapse. One of 11 children who emigrated because he could find work, he has been promised a house and a job from Bolivian President Evo Morales.

5. 4:10 a.m. -- Jimmy Sanchez, at 19, the youngest miner and father of a months-old baby.

6. 5:34 a.m. -- Osman Isidro Araya, 30, the father of three, had planned to quit the mine at the end of August because of the risk.

7. 6:21 a.m. -- Jose Ojeda, 47, a widower with no children who has diabetes. Two of his nephews were on hand at the site to greet him.

8. 7:02 a.m. -- Claudio Yanez, 34, a drill operator who requested cigarettes be sent down while awaiting rescue and expressed disgust at the nicotine patches he received instead.

9. 7:59 a.m. -- Mario Gomez, at 63 is the oldest of the miners. He also is the most experienced, having first entered a mine shaft to work at the age of 12.

10. 8:52 a.m. -- Alex Vega, 31, who is married with two children, had been saving to buy a house and move out of his parents' home. His father helped in rescue efforts -- using a false name because officials prohibited relatives from doing the dangerous work.

Associated Press

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Chile Mine Rescue Latin America