SOMERSET, Pa. – Mary Unger spent part of Friday sitting alone by her telephone, waiting for news of her son and the eight other men trapped in the flooded Quecreek Mine.
At 87, Unger is too frail to go to the mine herself to keep a vigil for 52-year-old John Unger and the others.
"He's my only son," she said, her voice halting with emotion. "It's awful. The waiting. It seems like things just keep going wrong."
The men have been trapped in a passage 240 feet below ground since Wednesday night, when they brort to bore a rescue shaft suffered a setback Friday when a drill bit broke. Hours ticked by before officials were able to get equipment in place to start on a second shaft.
Among those trapped were Randall Fogle, Robert Pugh, 50, Thomas Foy, 51, and his son-in-law, Blaine Mayhew. One of Fogle's cousins said Fogle was in his early 40s and had a wife and three children.
Foy's sister, Neva Glassner, 40, said her brother was the group's crew leader. She described him as an outdoorsman.
"I think it's the government's fault. I hate to blame anyone, but I wish the maps were correct, then the workers wouldn't have made their mistake," Glassner said.
Nine other miners were in the mine when the icy floodwaters came. But the men now trapped inside were able to warn their colleagues with an urgent radio warning: "The water's on the way. Get out."
One of those who got out, Doug Custer, 45, said he walked and rode in a vehicle for nearly 45 minutes — at times in water that was knee deep — to escape. Custer was among a crowd at the mine Friday, waiting for word.
"It's slow and nerve-racking," he said. "Things aren't going the way they should."
Custer's wife, Cathy, 42, said he was in a mine collapse five years ago and shattered his right knee. She said her husband has promised her he will hang up his hard hat.
"We're just praying and asking for a miracle," she said. "We feel guilty because they're our friends and he escaped."
Mary Unger said her son raises cattle on a small farm as well as working his job at the mine.
"He is a workaholic. He's always been that way," she said. "He's the kind of person who is always quick to help people, too."