The rescue of Modesto Varischetti - Coolgardie Western Australia
Bonnievale Disaster Recalled.
A similar catastrophe, in which 20 men narrowly escaped death by drowning, and which resulted in a solitary miner being cut off and undergoing the terrible ordeal of being shut off in a rise for nine days with the water at his feet — only prevented from rising and enveloping him through there being no outlet above for the air to escape — created a great sensation in Western Australia in 1907. The accident occurred at Bonnievale, six miles from Coolgardie. On March 19 of that year there was a great downpour of rain at Bonnievale, and into its mines, situated in a gully between two ranges, rushed the flood waters.
The Westralia mine was the scene of a great drama. A stream of water rushed down the shaft with such violence that there was little tune for 20 men to get out. An Italian, named Varischetti, was in the drive at the No. 10 level — a thousand feet down— and 200ft. from the shaft. He discovered too late what had happened. He rushed forward against the rising incoming water, but was driven back end retreated to the rise. In the shaft the flood rose 100ft. but in the rise the pressure of air held it back, and this proved Varischetti's salvation.
Meanwhile, the outer world had been stirred. Divers were engaged. At first it was thought that he most have been drowned, but knocking was heard from his chamber, and pumping operations were started.
After the third day Diver F. Hughes, who was at that time employed on the South- Kalgurli mine, went below in a diving suit with air pipes and conveyed food, a code of signals, and candles to the imprisoned man. Diver Hughes, after reaching the 900ft level, went through water to 1,000ft,. after which he trudged along the level for 200ft. to the 30ft rise. Varischetti then thought
he had been a prisoner for two days only. He was greatly comforted by Hughes, who soon returned with the message that the Italian was well. These visits were repeated until the morning of March 28. when the water in the shaft had been lowered and Varischetti was helped along the drive with his head above water. Soon after in the presence of hundreds of waiting men, women and children, there stepped out of the shaft the sturdy diver and a pale-faced Italian, who wearily rested his head on Hughes's shoulder. Despite the fact that the spectators had been warned not to make any noise, cheer upon cheer went up for
rescuer and rescued alike.<
- The West Australian, Tue 9 Oct 1923