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Utah Co. SAR Eureka
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Abandoned mine in Eureka the scene of nighttime rescue

Part of the UTCO Sheriff SAR in Eureka on 9.30.20. Courtesy @UCSO Twitter

EUREKA, UT — Utah County Search and Rescue extricated a man from a mine shaft in Eureka on Tuesday night. 

Sgt. Spencer Cannon from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office says the victim was an 18-year-old from Layton. He was exploring the Colorado Number 2 shaft in the Tintic Mining District along with a friend. Cannon says the area is a popular one for people who are looking for old mines to explore.

“They had not been in or were even aware of this particular mine before, “Cannon said. “They saw it from the side of the road (and decided to go in.)”

Cannon said that shortly after that, one of the men got into a position in one of the vent shafts that he couldn’t get out of. Cannon thinks he had moved about 100 feet horizontally into the vent.

“He wasn’t injured at all. He felt like if he continued to try and get out that he would create more risk [for himself.] Then [his buddy] decided to call for help.”

A technical, tedious operation in Eureka

Part of the UTCO Sheriff SAR in Eureka on 9.30.20. Courtesy @UCSO Twitter

Utah County Sheriff Search and Rescue got that call at about 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Sgt. Cannon says it was a very technical operation. “It was not unlike caving. Not too difficult to get in, but it was tedious. They set up technical anchoring systems … a lot of ropes and carabiners and pulleys and things like that.”

The efficient use of “natural and engineered anchors, lighting, air safety equipment and knowledge of the environment and systems at play were crucial to a safe and successful rescue,” tweeted the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

Some wrong, some right

Sgt. Cannon said the duo did a big thing wrong. “Going into that mine in the first place that was well beyond their experience level (was a mistake.)” But he says they also did some things right. “They weren’t completely unprepared,” says Cannon. “They had a rope. They told someone where they were going. They went together. And they stopped when they realized they were [in] over their head.”

Cannon says exploring an abandoned mine shaft on private property is illegal. If mines are on public land it might be ok, depending on local rules. Cannon didn’t know whether the Colorado Number Two shaft was on private or public land.