Pa. Company Plays Role In Chilean Mine Rescue
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A small Pennsylvania company is celebrating its role in this week's successful rescue of 33 miners in Chile.�Center Rock, Incorporated made the drilling equipment used to reach the trapped men.�Jennifer Szweda Jordan, of station WYEP, reports.
JENNIFER SZWEDA JORDAN: Before this week, Berlin, Pennsylvania, was really only known outside its borders for Snyder's brand potato chips.
(Soundbite of machinery)
Then a drill bit manufacturer with just 80 employees put all hands on deck to save the 33 miners a half a world away.
Mr. RICHARD SOPPE (Center Rock Incorporated): All the bits that we ran were all made right here in record pace. Everybody just dropped what they were doing and worked round the clock until they got us everything we needed.
JORDAN: Richard Soppe markets the drills for Center Rock Incorporated. It's in a nondescript industrial shop in the middle of a corn field.
As soon as Soppe heard of the mine collapse, he knew his company could help. Center Rock's drill heads have bits that pound rock as a drill rotates - ideal for the hard, dry volcanic ground where the miners were stuck. Soppe started calling Pennsylvania officials and others to convince them their equipment could save the day.
After getting the go-ahead, Soppe and other employees headed off to Chile. They worked days at a time, until they literally fell asleep standing up. After 33 days, it paid off.
Mr. SOPPE: The miners had a camera pointed up in the roof and just mud and muck and water raining down and all of the sudden we saw that nose of that drill and it was a defining moment. The two other drills that were drilling simultaneously they stopped and saluted us, and - it was the biggest moment of my life.
JORDAN: The pace is getting back to normal at the shop now. All around the offices are thank you letters, signs reading 33 lives, and notes from children welcoming home what they call their heroes. Soppe's ready for some rest. Today, though, he'll allow the town of Berlin to pat him and the others on the back as area businesses hold a party for their hometown company.
Mr. SOPPE: I don't think it's all sunk in yet, what we did. It was pretty big. Nothing like it ever before in the world, and I'm proud to be a part of the team that went down there and got it done.
JORDAN: For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Szweda Jordan.
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