[Mining death inquiry] Muck shocked Sudbury mining veteran – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – April 24, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Mark Bardswich has worked for Vale for 20 years, but had never been to Stobie Mine until late the night of June 8, 2011.

The operations control centre supervisor at Vale’s Totten Mine, he’s a long-time member of Ontario Mine Rescue, an organization that trains and equips volunteers to respond to mine accidents and disasters.

Bardswich was awakened about 10:45 p.m. June 8, and called to an incident at Stobie Mine. He got there by 11:30 p.m. and met with other mine rescuers.

He was told three people were missing and unaccounted for. Bardswich was assigned captain of a second rescue team, and by the time it got to the 3,000-foot level, he knew two men were involved and the body of one had been recovered. Bardswich moved along the level toward the No. 7 ore pass, through sticky mud.

“Looking around, I couldn’t believe it,” Bardswich testified at the fourth day of the inquest into the deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram. The men were killed by a run of muck at the 3,000 level of Stobie Mine near the No. 7 ore pass about 9:45 p.m.

“It was just like … wow, unbelievable.”

Chenier, 35, a supervisor at Stobie, and Fram, 26, a miner, were killed by a run of muck — ore mixed with sand and water.

By the time Bardswich arrived, the first team of rescuers was there, as were first aid personnel and other workers. One worker told Bardswich they had found Jordan Fram and were taking him out of the muck.

“How is he?” Bardswich asked the worker. “He put his head down and shook his head.”

Bardswich then asked: “Are we in rescue or recovery mode?” and the other man shook his head again.

Bardswich told the inquest Fram was covered in silt and he was placed down the 3,000 level.

Under questioning from coroner’s counsel Susan Bruce, Bardswich testified people on the scene had found Fram against a wall, buried in muck, and tried to dig him out by hand. One was using a Kubota, a machine smaller than a scoop tram to dig in the tight area. Rescuers could barely stand up in the area and sticky mud was making it difficult to walk.

“It was pretty tough going,” Bardswich told the inquest.

As the men dug, they had to find somewhere to put the muck and dumped it in piles down the drift. Because it was so wet, “you couldn’t get it away from Jordan,” said Bardswich.

It took almost an hour to dig the young miner out. More people would have helped dig by hand, but they would have been piled on top of each other, the inquest heard.

A three-woman, two-man jury is hearing evidence at the inquest, at which regional supervising coroner Dr. David Eden is presiding. It started Monday and is expected to last seven to 10 days.

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