WISE, Va. - The recent scenes from the mining disaster in Turkey are an all-too-familiar situation for families in our southern coal region.
It is the miners themselves who go into these dangerous situations to rescue their fellow workers. We witnessed those skills as teams competed in mock mining disasters Thursday.
There's a competition going on down on the football field of the University of Virginia's College at Wise. It's hardly a game -- it's life-saving training for mine rescue teams from Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. Fellow miners are training in life-saving scenarios.
"These are the ones that go into the face of all the dangers to rescue the fellow coal miners. That's what it's all about," says Department of Mines chief inspector Randy Moore.
And they're faced with every kind of problem that can be thrown at them: cave-ins, dangerous gases, unfamiliar mining passages.
When the time comes, that training saves lives. "I was relatively new on the team. It was an experience when we got underground. I really didn't know that to expect, but once we began exploring for those miners, training kicked in and we did the job," Nick Osborne with the Sun Coke Energy Company remembers. His team later won the competition.
For those who've been around the business for some time and been on rescue teams, it's the recovery, not the rescue that they remember. "I've been in three disasters with rescue and recovery. McClure Disaster, the South Mountain and Double "R" in 1987. It's pretty vivid in my mind, the three that I went though," inspector Danny Mann said.
It's training in real-life situations that brings about a positive outcome.