Lucky Miner Escapes (15 MINERS DIE in 1967 mining explosion) The Free Press Turns 115 years Old
April 6 1967
Free Press Files
A miner who doesn’t know why he is alive left Fernie Memorial Hospital on Tuesday. Pete Rotella, 37, of Fenrie was blown away about 60 feet from the entrance to Balmer North Mine Monday afternoon in the blast which killed 15 of his companions. With parts of the Snowshed flying around him, his body turning over and over in the tremendous blast, the miner was tossed over the embankment and was brought up short about 150 feet down the steep mountainside by some low bushes.
I was just at the mine entrance and I had just adjusted my miner’s lamp when the blast hit me, said Rotella as he limped around on crutches at Fernie Memorial Hospital Tuesday morning.
The only injury he received in his 150 foot flight through the air was a bruised ankle. “ I think I hurt it on a stone,”he said.
Next thing he remembered after the blast was walking into Fred Sowchuk’s garage about 200 yards away from the pithead.
Mr. Rotella was hopping on one leg around the hospital from early Tuesday morning, chatting with his colleagues who were more seriously injured and who were in beds in adjoining rooms at the hospital.
He wasn’t sure of his reaction to his miraculous escape when he was at the hospital.
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