Ariel Ticona, the penultimate miner to be rescued from the depths of the San Jose mine in Chile, has spoken exclusively to HELLO! about his ordeal and what it was like to finally meet the daughter who was born while he was trapped underground.
The 29-year-old, who already has children Jean, nine and Steven, five, with his wife Elizabeth, missed the birth of daughter Esperanza, which means hope, but was sent a video of her birth, which he watched while underground. “I watched it alone,” he told HELLO!. “My colleagues left me alone.”
How did he feel about the footage? “I tried to deal with it with the same detachment that I used to deal with everything happening down there,” he confessed. “I always remained distant. It didn’t help me to become anxious. There was too much to deal with to dwell too much on things.
He describes meeting Esperanza on the day he was rescued as an “emotional moment.” But even then he didn’t cry. “I didn’t cry but my brother did,” he said, adding that Esperanza is “lovely, lovely”.
The miner tried to remain optimistic during his time underground, and was more worried about how his family were coping. “I thought in the worse of cases I was going to leave her [his wife] alone with the children,” he said, adding that the thought of them helped keep him going. His faith also sustained him and he prayed every day at midday, then several times a day as the promise of a rescue grew closer. “We always knew that it was a miracle of God that we were alive,” he said.
The group of 33 miners have all made a pact not to discuss the first 17 days of their entrapment for the time being, saving the full story for a book. “Down there all kinds of things went on,” said Ariel. “All kind of suffering.” “We had no notion of time,” he added. “There was no day or night. There was a lot of desperation. Then everything changed, food and beds began to arrive. Then we began to get organised.”
Ariel is now planning on saving money for a family home. He and his family are currently living with his mother in the mining town of Copiapó. ”I want to fulfil the dream I always had for my wife and children: to give them a home,” he said. He also plans to return to mining. “It’s what I like doing,” he told HELLO!. “In my family there are many miners and a miner dies a miner – it’s in their blood.”
SEE THE FULL EXCLUSIVE STORY IN HELLO! MAGAZINE, ISSUE 1147, OUT NOW.