Mine workers in Emery County get a large show of support after deadly flash flood

Aug 6, 2021, 7:11 PM
(Rocks and mud left behind after a fatal flash flood near the Gentry Mountain Mine.  Photo courtesy...
(Rocks and mud left behind after a fatal flash flood near the Gentry Mountain Mine. Photo courtesy Emery County Sheriff's Office.)
(Rocks and mud left behind after a fatal flash flood near the Gentry Mountain Mine. Photo courtesy Emery County Sheriff's Office.)

EMERY COUNTY, Utah —  A much-needed show of support for coal miners in Emery County cleaning up from a flash flood that killed their coworker.  The county sheriff’s office has been collecting donations for the past two days for the workers handling the recovery effort.

A stark reminder

Investigators say Gary Nelson fell into the wall of debris coming down Bear Canyon late Sunday night.  Search crews found his body 6 miles away from where he fell into the water. 

Elected officials say even though this wasn’t a mine disaster, it was a stark reminder of the tragedies that have happened in the past.  For instance, Friday marks the 14th anniversary of the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster. The incident trapped six workers in the mine and killed three people trying to help them out.

Emery County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Janalee Luke said, “Since that, we’ve had a couple of wildland fires in this area that have really devastated this canyon… and now this disaster.”

Support has been pouring in

Since the flood, Luke says they’ve received a steady stream of calls from people wanting to help the workers cleaning up the damage. 

Those volunteers aren’t allowed to take part in the cleanup. So the sheriff’s office set up a location where people can drop off things they’d like to donate.  Luke says they’ve taken up sandwiches, water, Gatorade, chips and other snacks.

“We’ve had businesses reach out to us with large donations,” Luke said. “We’ve had individuals reach out to us, neighboring counties and they’ve been very generous in their donations.”

Miners are traditionally a very close group of people. Company HR Director Lori Ann Larsen says the mood around Gentry Mountain Mine has been somber since the accident.

She said, “They literally spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their families.  So, that is their second family.”

However, Larsen believes these donations will help the workers start to heal from the tragedy.

“Today, when the donations were brought in, there was a local company that provided soup and sandwiches for everyone, and there were smiles on the faces [of the workers] for probably the first time that I’ve seen since this happened,” Larsen said.

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Mine workers in Emery County get a large show of support after deadly flash flood