INA, Ill. – Mining milestones were made Tuesday at Rend Lake College.
Marking the 100th anniversary of mine rescue in Illinois, the Rescue Rhinos from Gibson County Coal were busy winning the Illinois Mine Rescue Association’s 2009 state mine rescue contest on the south side of campus. Meanwhile, college officials were on the north side announcing the future of mine safety and rescue training for the region.
A future facility at RLC will be aimed at putting Illinois on the top of the list for safest mining states across the country. Representatives from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity delivered a $285,000 state grant for RLC to design, engineer and construct a cutting-edge mine rescue and safety training facility on the campus in Ina, Ill. It will be located adjacent to the recently completed Coal Mine Training Center where RLC will breathe new life into its Mining Technology degree program.
The state championship was a homecoming for Gibson County Coal Mine Trainer Rod Dilbeck. He, team captain Terry Phegley and briefing officer Bruce Thompson won state mine rescue championships in 1991 and 1993 with Wabash Mine and as an Indiana State team in 2000. This is their first IMRA championship with the Princeton-based Gibson County Rescue Rhinos out of Indiana. Their time of just more than 33 minutes solving the mine disaster scenario was six minutes faster than the second-place Kentucky Coal Academy team made up of a mixture of mines in western Kentucky.
“That is a fast, intense problem,” Dilbeck said. “In a disaster, time is not your friend. That is what makes [this win] so neat. We had to act fast and make quick decisions.”
This is the team’s sixth title from mine rescue competitions and first state championship since he took over as trainer two years ago. Before that, Dilbeck spent 25 years as a member of mine rescue teams. He said a typical course takes anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to just shy of two hours. The average time it took to work Tuesday’s course was 45 minutes and two seconds, according to Dilbeck.
Four teams at a time take on the course. After the first turn was over in less than an hour on Tuesday, teams waiting in a secure area started realizing the pressure was on.
“It’s absolutely awesome,” he said of the win. “Coming back home and dominating was awesome, but everybody is a winner there. It’s a special breed. Every day is a new day and any day anyone can be beat. We are all winners. You just like to celebrate when you do win. They are just an awesome bunch of people.”
Gibson County’s team consisted of Dilbeck as trainer, captain Phegley, Greyville native and first-year map man Zachary Brown; Dilbeck’s son, Jacob Dilbeck, as #3 gas man; John Anderson as the #4; Greyville native and first-year #5 man Joshua Bell; Thompson as briefing officer and alternate Adam Dilbeck. First-year benchman Don Messel won in the bench contest, giving Gibson County the “big coal sweep,” Dilbeck added.
During the IMRA contest, RLC was holding its grand opening of the Coal Mine Training Center. During the DCEO grant announcement for the college’s new rescue and safety training facility, Office of Mines and Minerals Director Joe Angleton was addressing a crowd of more than 200 attendees about the importance of such training at such a facility.
“This facility will help make sure Illinois does not have the dubious distinction of having the third-worst fatality in coal mine history. In November of 1909, we had 259 people die ... in the Cherry Mine Disaster. ... Many of those people who lost their lives, lost them going back into the mine. Going back into that mine with nothing more than a handkerchief over their nose, trying to save other people. There were seven people that got on that cage and went underground three different times and brought people up alive. On the fourth try, they burned to death in the shaft. Those are the heroes ... that don’t just do the job they are supposed to do ... that go above beyond what is expected of anyone. Those are true heroes. I hope this [facility] will make sure that a Cherry never takes place again.”