Webb gives hints on survival

BEACONSFIELD gold mine survivor Brant Webb has paid tribute to paramedics and survivors of coal mine disasters, saying he was lucky he did not have to survive the danger of methane gas found in underground coal mines.
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Lou Caruana

Webb told the Mining and Engineering New South Wales expo in Newcastle yesterday that he survived the 2006 tragedy with the help of heroic paramedics and rescuers who buoyed his spirits but despite months of counselling and physiotherapy he still suffered acquired brain injury.

“I used a cigarette lighter to work out if there was oxygen in the mine and the direction the air was coming from,” Webb said.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do that in a coal mine.”

Acquired brain injury affects more than 1.6 million Australians and their families and friends.

With a high incidence of ABI in the mining sector, it can have major implications in assessing and providing services for individuals such as Webb and supporting their family, according to speakers at the exhibition’s Safety Day.

Webb said that immediately after the incident his body was gripped with fear but he knew as long as there was enough oxygen he could survive. Water and food were lesser priorities at first.

“It was fear of the unknown,” he said. “After that you turn into survival mode.”

Webb said his greatest motivation for surviving during the ordeal was his family.

“For two minutes each day, think of your family,” he said.

“Don’t just cut corners on safety. Think about tomorrow and seeing your family.”

Webb and his family went through extensive counselling after the incident while he endured painful physiotherapy from a range of specialists.

But while the physical injuries were treated, the mental scars remained and needed years of treatment.

The brain acquired injury needed to be addressed to alert the brain that the life threatening situation and the pain of the therapy was over.

Webb said complacency and fatigue were the two greatest dangers to safety underground.

Other speakers at the Safety Day line-up included Dean McSporran from Safety or Sorrow, who lost his arm in a mining accident and is now a motivational speaker on safety issues.

He said he had performed a procedure at the mine thousands of times yet his accident still happened and despite the plethora of procedures underground, miners needed to be alert.

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