Huntington Canyon, UT Coal Mine Shaft Collapse, May 1975


Huntington Canyon, Emery County -- Seven-men rescue teams were working under the threat of cave-ins late Monday after a mine shaft roof collapsed, killing two, injuring three and trapping one miner earlier in the day.
Late Monday the trapped man was identified as RUSS LARSEN, no age or address listed. Administrative Supervisor Dick Bragant of the mining company said crews would work all night in an effort to reach the missing man.
He said, "We are presuming the man alive as rescue efforts continue," in the hope he was able to survive the roof collapse a mile and a half into the Peabody Coal Co. mine which provides fuel for Utah Power & Light Co.'s recently dedicated Huntington Power Plant.
Rescue workers said it was very difficult work in the mine, since rocks continued to fall in the area. Late Monday, crews were in sight of the mining device near which the missing man is believed to be.
A man about 20-years-old who refused to give his name said miners were working with a claw-equipped mining machine called a "Miner," starting to cut into the face of the mountain, when 22 square feet of coal about four-feet deep rushed in on them trapping the man rescuers were still struggling to reach at 8:30 p.m.
The unidentified witness indicated that the cave-in involved "many tons" of coal.
Dead are ALFRED WILLIS, 25, Carbonville, Carbon County, and ROGER LUKE, 19, Orangeville, Emery County. In good condition at Carbon Hospital in Prive are DAVE CAVE, 33, Price, and VERNON WILSON, 29, Price. They were under heavy sedation.
Less seriously hurt was CHESTER J. HOUSEKEEPER, 28, Wellington, Carbon County. He was taken to his home.
The accident occurred about 11:30 a.m. near what is called the first south intersection -- the joining of the principal shaft and a diagonal takeoff to the south. All of the men were between the intersection and a point 300-yards into the first south shaft. The shafts are about 20 feet wide and eight feet high and go horizontally into the mountain.
Lee Lenman, a foreman in charge of the rescue operations, said an electric-powered, coal-hauling truck slid forward into the end of the shaft at the intersection, causing the roof to fall and killing MR. WILLIS. He said two of the injured men were on the other side of the collapsed roof section, but were brought to safety.
MR. HOUSEKEEPER was near the two ton-truck, escaping serious injury.
A second roof cave-in a few minutes later killed MR. LUKE. He and MR. WILLIS had been with the company about two years.
Neldon Sitterud, general superintendent of the Deer Creek Mine, instructed Emery County Sheriff LaMar Guymon to stop newsmen at a point about 2 1/2 miles down the canyon from the cave-in site.
Sheriff Guymon informed radio, television and wire service news persons at 3:45 p.m. that no one would be allowed up the canyon except rescue personnel.
Mr. Lenman said seven-men crews will work "as long as it takes" to get the sixth man out.
Mr. Sitterud, contacted by phone at the mine about 5:30 p.m., said crews were shoring up the shafts and working under the constant threat of further cave-ins. Ambulances stood by for the trapped man and possibly rescuers who might be injured in the operations.
Newsman could only speculate about the actual appearance of the mine property, located up the canyon at the end of a winding road.
Peabody supplies the coal to the UP&L Huntington plant directly from the mine in covered conveyor belts.

Salt Lake Tribune Utah 1975-05-13