William Paul Holena helped to rescue Peter A. Byczkowski from a cave-in, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, December 21, 1964. When a cave-in occurred in a coal mine, Byczkowski, 54, was pinned face down under eight feet of coal and debris. After another cave-in, the mine was cleared of all rescue workers, who by then had dug a tunnel six feet into the debris to find that Byczkowski was alive. Although further slides were anticipated, Holena, 36, coal miner, and a mine inspector made their way to the debris pile where Byczkowski lay partially in the tunnel, trapped by his legs. The inspector crawled into the tunnel, which was so small that he had to lie on top of Byczkowski. Working as rapidly as possible, the inspector removed coal from atop Byczkowski’s legs and passed it back to Holena. Additional coal fell as the inspector worked, but he soon uncovered Byczkowski’s legs. While the inspector rested outside the tunnel, Holena made repeated trips to obtain rescue tools. A mine foreman joined them. He and the inspector took turns working to free Byczkowski’s feet; when either was in the tunnel, all of his body except his feet was beneath the debris. The foreman cut Byczkowski’s boots and freed one foot, the other remaining pinned by a heavy timber against the metal conveyor on the floor of the mine. The inspector positioned a jack to move the timber, but it broke on use, and the foreman likewise broke a second jack. They and Holena then worked to bend the conveyor, after which the inspector pulled Byczkowski’s foot free, and he was removed from the debris then carried to safety. He recovered. The rescue had taken 2.5 hours. Several hours later another cave-in occurred in the area, and it required six days to uncover the body of a man who had been buried with Byczkowski.
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