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Westmoreland Kemmerer Mine team places second at local competition

Posted: Tuesday, Jul 9th, 2013

Courtesy photo

ROCK SPRINGS — The Mine Rescue Competition team from Westmoreland Kemmerer Surface coal mine competed in their first surface rescue competition ever in Rock Springs, where they placed second in their flight of five.

This is the first year the team has competed together as a group. The team included some of the most experienced mine rescue team members, with training in firefighting, emergency rescue, first aid and rope rescue. Though they have skills in these disciplines, they have never actually competed as a team in an official competition. Only one member — Captain/Trainer Bruce Dryden — had ever been a member of a surface rescue team and had competed nationally with OCI’s national championship team.

“We made Bruce captain/trainer because of his experience as an MRT and EMT. And he really stepped up and did well with trying to get the team members prepared for competition,” said Mark Menapace, safety/training coordinator at WKI and team liaison.

“They only had six days together as a team, four of which were spent on actual training, scenarios and trying to get last-minute equipment ordered and our trailer finished. I still don’t know how they did it all,” said Menapace of the team’s short window for preparing for this prestigious and difficult contest.

Most teams that competed this year have at least been training together for the past year, but WKI runs their training differently because of the workload pressure it places on the other staff at the mine.

“We split our monthly training sessions into groups of eight or nine, half from the shift that is working and half volunteer to work a day off to train,” said Menapace. “At best, we may have five members in the same training. Even though they are seeing the same material, it doesn’t replace actually working together on these problems.”

In addition to the lack of time for training, the contest itself can be intimidating.

“These are some of the best teams in the United States.” says Bruce Dryden. “Solvay, OCI and Barrick have all competed in and won the national contest at some time in the last eight years, so we were able to learn quite a bit by watching these teams attempt the scenario,” said Dryden.

The scenario consisted of two youths and a dog trapped in a Conex style container, simulating, as much as possible, a real emergency. The boys apparently climbed to the top and fell through an opening, causing injuries, both minor and life-threatening injuries.

“There were no doors or openings from the ground, so we had to use our rope skills to gain access, and then there was the mother,” said Dryden of the difficult scenario, referencing the actress playing the distraught mother, Ashley. “This gal caused every team fits by yelling, kicking and disrupting rescue attempts and even trying to rescue the boys herself.”

The young woman playing “the distraught mother” is an underground miner from OCI, and hadn’t played a victim before Thursday, where she was a victim in one of the “stations” the teams were subjected to.

“This young lady screamed all day long, 40 minutes at a time for 11 teams,” Dryden noted. “It’s a wonder she could talk at all after that, she definitely deserves an award.

“Overall, the team did well both on Thursday and Friday. To place second in the B flight is quite an accomplishment, and taking into consideration our short training window and holes in our skills we couldn’t fill, it’s really quite an accomplishment for this team. I am really proud of the way they came together, and can’t wait to compete again next year.” Menapace added.

“They really made me proud. I expected this to be an educational experience and a good introduction to competitions, so coming away with a trophy and a second place finish is just gravy. This lady and gentlemen really put forth a great effort and deserved what they won,” according to Dryden.

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