CHILE’S 33 rescued miners never considered suicide in the dark days before they were found alive, one of the miners told Spanish television.
“We had to fight, we all thought of our families. We tried to think of positive things,” Ariel Ticona said in an interview broadcast late on Thursday on Antena 3.
“Neither I or any of my colleagues thought of taking our own lives.”
Mr Ticona’s wife Elizabeth Segovia gave birth to a baby girl on September 14 – 40 days into the miners’ ordeal. He asked his wife to name their daughter Esperanza, the Spanish word for hope.
The 29-year-old said the miners played football after rescue crews located them to pass the time and keep their minds off their plight while they waited to be pulled out of the gold and copper mine.
Mr Ticona and three other rescued miners visited Real Madrid’s stadium on Thursday at the invitation of the Spanish giants before granting their television interview. It was the four miners’ first trip outside of Chile.
“Never in my dreams did I think I would go there,” he said, with the sunglasses he was given protect his eyes from unaccustomed daylight pushed up to the top of his head.
The miners were caught in a cave-in in the San Jose mine on August 5 and survived on dwindling rations of food and water for 17 days until rescue crews drilled a tiny hole into the chamber where they had taken refuge.
They were finally hoisted up to the surface last week one by one in a mini-capsule after 69 days over 600 metres underground.
“I fought, I never gave up because my children and my wife gave me strength. It would calm me down to think that I would get out of there and could be with my grandchildren,” Esteban Rojas, 44, told the television station.
“The heat and the humidity were terrible, but we had faith that we would get out of there. I was always religious but after what happened to me I believe in God even more.”
Mr Rojas, who has vowed to marry his girlfriend of 25 years since he was rescued from the mine, said he wanted to return to mining “but never at the San Jose mine, at one that is safe”.
Relatives of the miners filed two criminal cases while the men were still underground: one against the mine owners, and another against both the owners and the government for continuing to operate a mine despite safety problems.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who in images beamed around the world hugged the miners one by one as they were winched to safety, has vowed to punish those found responsible for the collapse under criminal and civil law.