Exclusive: Chilean Miner Dubbed 'Super Mario' Speaks Out

Chilean miner Super Mario speaks about life underground.

ByABC News via logo
October 17, 2010, 9:25 PM

Oct. 18, 2010 — -- When rescued Chilean miner Mario Sepulveda rose to the surface after being trapped underground for 69 days, he couldn't contain himself. He ran out of the capsule, yelling and cheering and hugging everyone in sight. The world press quickly dubbed the 40-year-old father of two "Super Mario."

Only an hour after Mario was released from the hospital, he spoke to ABC News in his first television interview about that awful moment when the world caved in on "Los Treinta y Tres" – those 33 men.

"I was wearing ear plugs and a hard hat, so I could barely hear," Sepulveda said. "But I FELT something odd and another miner started yelling, 'Mario, it's a cave-in…let's get out of here!'"

Sepulveda started looking desperately for a way out. He climbed a ladder up a ventilation shaft, but the ladder ran out, and rocks started showering down on him.

"I told the men, 'There's no escape. We need to remain in this shelter. God is here with us. Whoever wants to save themselves, take His hand,'" he said.

During those first few days, Mario said, the men were often screaming, fighting and crying: "You have everything going through your mind: you fear, you cry and you suffer. You wonder, 'Is anyone coming to save us - or not?' But doubt always was a passing moment, because we had faith. Everyday at noon, we would pray. Everyday. Down there, we were all…one religion."

Reports have surfaced that the men worried about cannibalism. Sepulveda said he never considered that, he simply hoped to die in his sleep. He even prepared for it: "One night, I gathered all my things, my seat belt, my hard hat, and I thought, 'When I die, I want to die as a miner,' and when they find me, dignified, the world will say, 'A miner died with his head held high.'"