Wes Young in Launceston writes: The news broke just after 4am: the drills had reached the two miners.

Using a hydraulic rock splitter, the final tunnel came up wtihin centimetres of the edge of the cage, just as planned.

By around 5am Brant Webb and Todd Russell emerged from the rescue tunnel and walked into the main mine shaft. They were in remarkably good spirits as they embraced their rescuers. Then they tidied themselves up and met with their parents in the crib room at 300 metres.

The two men refused to be put on stretchers and walked out at the top of the mine shaft. Other than their bushy beards, they just looked ilke a couple of ordinary miners; they even signed some autographs as they headed towards the ambulance.

Then they “tagged off’ (clocked out) to signify the end of their shifts. Brant Webb actually stopped the ambulance and gave his time card to David Koch from Channel Seven’s Sunrise.

Beaconsfield’s historic church bell that hadn’t rung since World War Two was pulled so hard it broke. So a local wheeled out a WWII vintage air raid siren which rang out through the town and signalled the media blitzkrieg that followed.

Then it was in to the ambulances, which headed off to the Launceston General Hospital along the East Tamar Highway under a police escort. The ambulances stopped about 200 metres away from the ambulance station at the hospital. They opened up all the side sliding doors so that when they pulled up in front of the media you could see the two guys sitting the ambulances. They smiled and waved at the media . Metro buses stopped on the way past with commuters leaning out the windows and cheering the two miners.

Stephen Ayre, CEO of the Launceston General Hospital, said he was amazed by the physical and mental state of the two miners. He said they are in a category three condition (most normal people are cagegory four). They’re slighly run down, but there are no signs of any injuries or medical complications.

One of the first things the two men said to rescuers was they wanted to have a shower and go to Larry Knight’s funeral at 1pm today.

Back at Beaconsfield, every pub in the town was open, full of children, and offering free beer by 7am. Even the church was offering free beer.

Peter Fray

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