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Rescue effort to free miners continues -

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Broadcast: 01/05/2006

Rescue effort to free miners continues

Reporter: Jocelyn Nettlefold

KERRY O'BRIEN, 7:30 REPORT PRESENTER: Welcome to the program. And what an excruciating time it is
for family and friends, rescuers and the rest of the tiny northern Tasmanian mining community of
Beaconsfield. But most particularly for the two men still trapped in a cramped metal cage, still 12
metres of solid rock and at least two days from precious freedom. By 9:25 tonight East Coast time,
it will be exactly six days since Brant Webb and Todd Russell were entombed in the gold mine they
were working. Fourteen of their workmates made it to the surface, but when the body of another
miner, Larry Knight, was retrieved on Thursday, little hope was held for Russell and Webb. Then
came the jubilation and celebration last night, with the news that they were alive. But today, the
mood from the rescue front was much more sombre, as a new reality had to be confronted. How to keep
the two men alive, while working out the best way of getting to them without jeopardising their
precarious hold on life? In a few moments we'll cross live to Beaconsfield for the latest, but
first, this on-the-spot report from Jocelyn Nettlefold.

JULIE KELLY, BRANT WEBB'S MOTHER-IN-LAW: We're just about to sit down and have tea and the
gentleman from the mine came rushing in. He wouldn't speak to us. He still had his muddy boots on
and knelt down crying and said to Rachel, "They're alive".

KAYE RUSSELL, TODD RUSSELL'S MOTHER: They found them, they're alive, they're talking to us, they're
in contact and they're going to get them out.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD, 7:30 REPORT REPORTER: It's the news the entire town of Beaconsfield had been
praying to hear. Miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb are alive. Since earth tremors rocked and
goldmine last Tuesday night, the men have been trapped nearly a kilometre underground. It's dark,
cramped, wet and hot. The temperatures at least 35 degrees. Yet remarkably, they are not seriously
injured. Their lives saved by the protective cage on the machine they were operating. Their
families who've spoken to the pair via a radio link bored through 12 metres of rock, are
understandably desperate to have them brought to the surface.

NOEL RUSSELL, TODD RUSSELL'S FATHER: They have put new radio equipment down there and they're
talking to the boys quite freely at the moment. So the sooner they get out themselves all the
better.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Unions say that it could be another 48 hours before the pair see the light of
day. Noel Russell says that his son has got the stamina to hang on.

NOEL RUSSELL: Oh, he's a good boy.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: With the original shaft blocked by the rock fall, rescuers are now approaching
the men via a secondary horizontal shaft. The operation to clear the final metres has become more
delicate, as the team nears the anxious pair.

MURRAY BIRD, GENERAL MANAGER, MINES RESCUE PTY LTD: History has shown us you never give up. There
was one case in Germany where six gentlemen lasted 23 days and were found. So it can happen. So you
never give up, but it's hard to keep on edge and keep pushing and work as fast and efficient as you
can to get back in.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Murray Bird heads the NSW Mine Rescue Organisation which trains Tasmanian
rescue teams. This afternoon two of his instant management team flew down to join the effort.

MURRAY BIRD: They have got unstable ground, and as you're approaching it the last thing you want to
do is make it move again. They know that the men are in good condition at the moment. So yes, you
have to move with a bit of stealth.

INSPECTOR WARWICK KIDD, NSW FIRE BRIGADES SERVICE: These environments are like pick up sticks.
You've got to be very careful how and what you pick up and move and how you actually dig your way
into the area where the guys are. So they're going to be working very hard at being very careful
and not rushing the situation.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Nine years ago, thousands of viewers were transfixed by live television
coverage of Stuart Diver's rescue after three nights buried alive by the Thredbo landslide. NSW
fire brigade inspector Warwick Kidd took part in that rescue and has been advising the Tasmanian
rescue team by telephone today.

WARWICK KIDD: The miners have been sitting down cramped in that little cell for a long time. They
haven't got great circulation probably and, ah, they're going to need to take a good deal of time
when they physically extricate them, when they move them out. Too much too soon and they could go
into greater medical problems.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: In Beaconsfield, Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon thanked mine specialists from
around the country and is confident the rescue will be a success.

PAUL LENNON, TASMANIAN PREMIER: To still be alive five days after you were trapped, I think it's a
statement in itself about the determination and courage of Todd and Brant and I'm very hopeful
along with the rest of the Australian community that they're going to be able to come to surface to
tell their story and what a story it will be.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Each rescue shift involves 10 men underground, six responsible for the
excavation of hundreds of tonnes of rock. A priority today has been the effort to insert a tube
through 12 metres of rock so food and drink can be delivered to the men.

MATTHEW GILL, MANAGER, BEACONSFIELD MINE: What's going to them is now tablets and sustagen.

REPORTER: What sort of tablets?

MATTHEW GILL: Tablets that the paramedics have recommended given what their bodies are demanding
now.

CORINNA MITCHELL, BRANT WEBB'S AUNT: We were told there for a while that tonnes of dirt and rocks
has fallen down and there was nowhere for them to hide. We always hoped that the big machine they
would have been able to get under that. We were told, no, that wasn't far enough off the ground.
They were really trying to prepare us for the worst.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Brant Webb's aunts flew in from Newcastle and Bundaberg to support the family
through what they feared was going to be a sad time. They're thrilled with the news the two miners
survived the rock fall.

ALLYSON HASSLER, BRANT WEBB'S AUNT: We just all cried for hours. I don't think we've stopped crying
yet. It's wonderful news.

REPORTER: They're putting in a pipe to get food and drink to the blokes. Everyone is speculating on
what they'd like?

ALLYSON HASSLER: A beer and a cigarette.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: But underlying the euphoria in this tiny community is the grim reality that
this mining accident did claim a life, that of 44-year-old Larry Knight.

CORINNA MITCHELL: You feel so happy for yourself and so sad for Larry's family. So I don't know.

REPORTER: I understand they're happy for you, though?

CORINNA MITCHELL: As we would be for them, and it could have been either way, but it would have
been so nice for the three of them to come out of this.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: With crucial hours and an agonising wait ahead, friends, relatives and the
people of Beaconsfield have faith the two survivors will come home.

KAYE RUSSELL: I'm going to kiss him and I'm going to hug him and I'm going to say, "Don't you ever
do that to me again, Toddles. "

KERRY O'BRIEN: I don't think Toddles had much say in the matter.