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The Art of Paz Magic: How BGCGC Board Member, John Michael Paz Helped Save Nine Lives

John Paz and Godwin Pumps representatives photographed with the nine miners.

On Sunday, July 28, 2002, nine coal miners were rescued from the Quecreek Mine in Pennsylvania after being stuck 240 feet underground for a total of four days. The rescue mission in saving these nine lives was nothing short of magical. Hundreds of those in the construction industry worked together to save the miners from an untimely fate; including entrepreneur John Michael Paz, former owner of Godwin Pumps and current Board Member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Gloucester County.

As we celebrate the 19th anniversary, we would like to highlight John Paz’s role in this epic rescue. Early morning on the 25th of July, Scott Malcolm, the branch manager at the Pittsburgh Godwin Pump location, called Pennsylvania State Police to offer help in the operation to save the miners. At the time, they were trapped underground for a total of 12 hours. The Pennsylvania State Police asked Malcolm to provide pumps in order to release water trapped underground. After this request, both Malcolm, Paz, and other representatives of Godwin Pumps began mobilizing their equipment to help in the rescue.

Regional manager of the Buffalo, NY Godwin Pump Location, Herb Schroeder, stated “We talked to the mine people — everyone was pretty busy as you would imagine — in a conference call with John Paz, our president at company headquarters in Bridgeport, NJ. They gave us a quick briefing about where pumps had to be placed and how much piping was needed. Paz told me to catch a plane to the site and mobilize people and equipment.”

Pete Sigmund in his article, “Industry Mobilizes to Rescue PA’s ’Miracle Miners’” stated “Paz had loaded four 14,000-lb. (6,350 kg) 12-in. (30.4 cm) high-pressure pumps — HL250M Dri-Prime models powered by 440-hp (328 kW) Caterpillar 3406C diesels — plus 3,000 ft. (914 m) of pipe, suction hose and accessories, on four flatbed trucks and had them on the road from Bridgeport, with a police escort, before noon.”

Supplying these pumps during the rescue operation was crucial for removing water from the underground site. Because of his role, the miners were able to survive for several days while the rescue continued.

When asked about the Quecreek Mining incident, John’s Paz Administrative Assistant Micki Natalino states, “The fact of the matter is that everyone pitched in, including state police and the townspeople and the families that helped unload that truck. Everyone pitched in every which way to accomplish it. From every office that was involved, all hands were on deck. To pull all the equipment together, everyone in the office came outside to get the trucks out of there as quickly as possible. John is in one of the rooms as cool as a cucumber drawing up sketches- instructing how the pumps are going to be placed. It gives me chills knowing they pulled it off so eloquently.”

A photo of the actual sketches John Paz drew showing where to place the pumps to rescue the miners.

We are so thankful that Paz’s expertise, passion, and magic were able to play a role in helping return 9 people to their families. John Paz continues to spread his magic as a Board Member at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Gloucester County. Here, he helps to make an impact by providing resources and quality programming to Gloucester County youth and continues to save lives every day.

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