FEW people understand the meaning of pressure like Darren ‘‘The Gun’’ Flanagan.
The low-energy explosives expert received a call late one Sunday night in 2006 asking him to fly down to Tasmania and help rescue two miners, Todd Russell and Brant Webb, who were trapped deep underground in a collapsed section of Beaconsfield Mine.
Within a couple of hours, Mr Flanagan was aboard a private jet, flying from his home town of Nowra to Tasmania. He’d been tasked with the ultimate last resort option: blasting within a foot of the two trapped men with enough force to free them, but not enough to kill them.
‘‘What I did had never been done anywhere in the world before,’’ Mr Flanagan said. ‘‘To blast a tunnel to within 300 millimetres of two men’s bodies was the most scary, nerve-racking thing I’d ever done in my life. And it affected me deeply. It changed me.
‘‘I’ve struggled for a long time trying to come to terms with it.
‘‘It took 29 hours straight to do that blasting, and you can’t imagine the tension. Every single time I blasted, I was getting closer and closer to their bodies. And it only got more intense with each blast,’’ he said.
Mr Flanagan is coming to Queanbeyan to talk about the lessons he learnt in Beaconsfield as part of a Capital Region BEC’s free networking lunch on Tuesday, supported by NSW Work Cover.
He’ll discuss the triumphs of Beaconsfield, as well as some of the mental health costs that such a dangerous rescue mission involves.
‘‘I didn’t realise the significance of that at the time; I was just doing a job,’’ he said.
‘‘It wasn’t until you got home and had quiet moments to yourself to make sense of why you were feeling what you were feeling. You were supposed to be feeling really happy, and everyone was saying what a great result it was- and it certainly was. But it had a cost.’’
But ultimately the rescue was a success story, and Flanagan is proud of being part of the large team of rescuers that eventually freed Todd Russell and Brant Webb.
‘‘The rescue showed us what all human beings are capable of when put under great pressure, because every single rescuer that was down there was under a lot of pressure,’’ Flanagan said.
‘‘Ultimately it was a real celebration of human achievement, and I was one small part of the entire operation.’’
The Capital Region BEC invites Queanbeyan businessmen and women to attend its Free Networking Lunch at the Queanbeyan Roos Club on Tuesday, starting at noon, to hear Darren Flanagan’s extraordinary story.
Visit www.crbec.com.au to book.