Florencio Avalos, 31, had been the second in command of the group of 33 miners who were trapped nearly a half-mile underground in the collapse of the San Jose copper and gold mine on Aug. 5. The first in command is Luis Urzua, who is scheduled to be the last man out.
Avalos was chosen to be first because he was in the best condition.
Wearing a helmet and sunglasses to protect him from the glare of rescue lights, Avalos smiled broadly as he emerged from the rescue capsule shortly after midnight Tuesday. He hugged his wife and sobbing 7-year-old son, Bairon, and embraced Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his rescuers.
Also on hand was Avalos' other son and father.
"I am not surprised" that he was chosen to go first, his mother said. "I am so proud of him."