HANCOCK - The volunteer worker who fell into the Quincy Mine shaft Saturday was conscious when rescuers found him, but he died before he could be removed from the shaft, according to the chief of the lead fire department on the scene.
William J. Gregg, 60, who was an associate professor of geology at Michigan Technological University, was attempting to install emergency ladders in the mine shaft when he fell into it and landed on an object.
Gregg was a member of and a volunteer worker for the Quincy Mine Hoist Association.
Samantha Voigt/Daily Mining Gazette
Emergency personnel from several units responded to Saturday’s fatal fall at the Quincy Mine.
Dennis Raasio, chief of the Quincy-Franklin-Hancock Volunteer Fire Department, said his department was the lead agency because their station is located next to the mine shaft on U.S. 41 north of Hancock, but it was the Calumet Township Fire Department firefighters who went into the shaft to attempt to bring Gregg out.
"We called in Calumet Township because they have the equipment (for rappelling) and people to do that," Raasio said.
The call to 9-1-1 about the fall was received at about 2:15 p.m., and Raasio said he thinks it was about an hour later when rescuers got to him.
When rescuers reached Gregg, Raasio said, he spoke to them, but didn't seem to completely understand what was going on.
"The guy was conscious," Raasio said. "I don't know what stage he was at."
Raasio said after arriving on the scene, he along with a representative of the mine shaft and emergency medical personnel went to a lower entrance to the mine in Hancock, which is about 450 feet below the surface of the mine from where it's thought Gregg fell into the shaft.
"We needed to know if he fell all the way down," he said.
Raasio said Gregg was apparently resisting being rescued, possibly because he was disoriented, and at one point he slipped a little way farther down the shaft, but the rescuer was able to stop his slide before he could be injured further.
Raasio said soon after the slip down the shaft, Gregg seemed to lose consciousness.
"He became unresponsive," Raasio said. "They lowered a Mercy Ambulance paramedic down to him."
Soon after that, Raasio said Gregg was pronounced dead.
The incident is being investigated by Houghton County Mine Inspector Murray Gilles, and Raasio said he will cooperate with the investigation.
Raasio said he's been on the Q-F-H fire department for 20 years, but the rescue at the mine shaft was a new experience for him.
"This is the first time I've done this," he said.
Raasio said the rescuers who worked to bring Gregg out of the shaft risked their lives, and everyone is disappointed with the way the incident ended.
"It was an unfortunate situation," he said. "It's something you don't expect around here."
The Houghton County Sheriff's Office was the lead law enforcement agency at the accident, and Sheriff Brian McLean said he heard rumors that the rescuers dropped Gregg, but that was not only incorrect, it's irresponsible.
"I think (the rescuers) did a great job," he said.
Kurt Hauglie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.