MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University Mine Rescue Team from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources is the champion of the 2024 Intercollegiate Mine Emergency Response Competition (IMERC) for the second straight year. The competition was held in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, on February 23 and 24 and hosted by the Britannia Mine Museum and the University of British Columbia.

The competition included five teams from the United States and Canada.

The teams were required to respond to timed simulated mass casualty events in a “mine’ that is a former ore mine and now a museum, according to director of the Department of Mining and Industrial Extension Joshua Brady.

“Mine rescue and mining are in our culture; it’s the backbone of who we are, and we take all this personally,” Brady said. “It’s more important to us than showing up to win trophies.”

In a simulated earthquake, the team had to assess injuries and perform multiple rescues in the safest, most efficient manner. The team had to locate and treat nine injured “miners.”

“They went everywhere from a bump or a bruise, disoriented, all the way to some amputations and life-threatening injuries,” Brady said.

In the exercise, two of the casualties are placed in a confined space to test each team’s ability to safely assess the situation and respond. The WVU team made the correct choice avoiding the potentially deadly confined spaces in the competition.

“Our team chose not to enter that space, so we did not kill ourselves,” Brady said. “Unfortunate for some other teams—they did not make that decision.”

The team was required to lower a member 20 feet down to another floor to treat a miner and raise him to safety. Another miner had to be rescued using rope rescue techniques.

“It’s a continual evaluation of everything around them and making sure to remember that taking care of human life is going to be the same regardless of where we are,” Brady said. “That mindset really pulled them through.”

Brady said the team won four of five of the events and is writing their own page in the WVU record books.

“We didn’t show up for that event the way Mountaineers show up for events,” Brady said. “We did not have a sense or urgency in our step; we got beat on time and we got on skill.”

The WVU Mine Rescue Team includes Joshua Riffle, mining engineering majors Odin Smith from Charles Town, Dylan Shilling from Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, and Justin Waybright from Parkersburg, electrical engineering student Ian Stengel from Parkersburg, biology major Troy Whiton from Ringoes, New Jersey, and Grace Hansen, a mechanical engineering student from Ohio.