University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Sean Isgan

Engineer’s Company Had Major Role in Miner Miracle

Sean Isgan '82 made his mark at Pitt-Johnstown as an All-American wrestler and civil engineering technology student. Twenty years after graduation, Isgan made a historic difference as a professional engineer.

Sean Isgan NCAA profile video

The company Isgan co-founded in 1999, CME Engineering, Inc., provided critical technological support for the Quecreek Mine rescue in July of 2002. The Somerset County, Pa., recovery effort that brought nine trapped miners to safety is often referred to as miraculous.

The miners were trapped 240-feet underground after they'd breached an abandoned mine, causing millions of gallons of water to flood the mine in which they were working. The men had faced suffocation, drowning, and possibly hypothermia. Rescuers first drilled down to provide oxygen, and later pulled the men to the surface through a rescue shaft after 77 hours. The locations of the air holes and rescue shaft were surveyed by CME with what was then very new machinery.

Isgan recalled the situation in a 2013 interview with Erica Rath for "We started drilling holes in the ground and got an air hole down there," Isgan said. "We started other holes to drill a shaft so we could lower the cage and get the miners out."

CME Engineering used a real-time kinematic geographic positioning system to locate the miners and find the right place to drill the 240-foot hole that provided fresh air.

"I remember asking Sean a very eerie question: 'How did you know they were in that area of the mine?' " said Pat Pecora, Pitt-Johnstown's athletics director and legendary wrestling coach. "His response was: 'It was one of the only areas where they could be alive.' "

It was one of many great achievements by CME. "There's a world of opportunity in the engineering profession," said Isgan during ceremonies marking the launch of the Pitt-Johnstown Engineering Program in October 2015. 

"When I graduated, I could not have imagined that I would be involved in bringing public water to residents in many communities in central Somerset County through the Quemahoning Pipeline, or that I would have assisted in back-filling the crater that was left behind by the tragic crash of Flight 93, or perhaps the most memorable being part of a terrific and talented team that, with God's help, rescued the miners at Quecreek."

In addition to being president of CME, Isgan is a registered professional engineer and land surveyor when he and associate Michael Walker established CME Engineering, Inc., in Somerset. In 2005, he created another company, CME Operations, LP, which operates and maintains water and wastewater treatment plants.

"The Civil Engineering Technology program at Pitt-Johnstown prepared me well to enter the workforce and, like many Pitt-Johnstown students, I had a job before I graduated," said Isgan. "I had the opportunity to form CME in 1999, and CME has grown to a firm of 80-plus people with three offices in two states.

"I'm proud to say that our professional staff includes nine Pitt-Johnstown graduates. The reason is Pitt-Johnstown graduates are ready to hit the ground running. As an employer, I can't stress enough how important that is to a firm."

Isgan is a member of the Pitt-Johnstown Board of Advisors and was inducted into the inaugural class of the Pitt-Johnstown Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. During his four years at Pitt-Johnstown, Isgan had a won-loss record of 92-30, and became the first Mountain Cat wrestler to reach the national finals in 1981. He was a two-time All-American in the heavyweight classification.

He resides in Somerset with his wife Annette and three children.