Grieving relative says dead miners’ bodies frozen by icy subterranean water

LEBEL-SUR-QUEVILLON, Que. — A grieving relative says three dead miners drowned in such frigid water that their bodies were frozen blocks of ice by the time they were recovered. After a frenzied rescue effort, their bodies were found three days after they were were trapped when the northern Quebec mine flooded Friday. Rescue workers had frantically pumped water from hundreds of metres below the ground in the hope of finding the men alive.

But Pietro Bollini said Tuesday there’s no way the three men – including his brother, Domenico – could have survived for very long.

He said rescue workers did their best but that the water was so cold the men must have died within minutes.

“Submerged in water like that? Forget it. They were blocks of ice,” Bollini said in an interview in Lebel-sur-Quevillon, a town near the mine.

“When they took them out yesterday, they were frozen from head to toe. . . Fifteen minutes in there, and you’re dead.”

Marc Guay, Bruno Goulet and Bollini were doing repair work in the mine for Metanor Resources when it flooded. Two of them worked for Metanor while Guay was an employee of mining contractor Montali.

Bollini’s father, Italo, moved to Quebec from Italy in 1957 and was a miner for 30 years. He said the worst injury he ever suffered was a broken foot.

“I was luckier than him (Domenico),” he said after travelling to the scene of the tragedy.

“It was an accident that wasn’t meant to happen. Something went wrong somewhere. I don’t know what. I wasn’t there.”

Domenico had been a miner for 21 years.

Metanor issued a statement Tuesday expressing its deep sadness over the tragedy and promised its full support to grieving families and authorities now conducting an investigation.

“The circumstances of the accident are presently unknown,” Metanor said. “The company is working closely with the authorities.”

Provincial police and Quebec’s workers’ safety commission are both investigating.

Police are trying to determine whether criminal negligence may have played a role in the tragedy.

The victims were making repairs in the mine when the accident occurred. The mine is not currently operating and the men travelled down an elevator shaft to a level that would not normally have been flooded.

When workers above ground lost contact with the men, they brought the elevator lift back to the surface. It was empty.

But because its overhead hatch was open, they were hopeful the men might have escaped and swum to an air pocket.

In their rescue effort, crews pumped water from 500 metres below the Earth’s surface. Before discovering the bodies all they found was equipment – like helmets and a lantern.

The incident appeared to rattle investors in Metanor, who initially sent the junior gold miner’s stock plunging 21.6 per cent in the first day of trading after the accident – but much of the loss was recovered in trading Tuesday.


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