Second anniversary of Crandall Canyon mine disaster passes quietly
Aug. 6 marked the second anniversary of the Crandall Canyon mine disaster. The day passed quietly and the families of the fallen miners gathered at the monument site at Crandall Canyon for a memorial dinner.
On Aug. 1 in conjunction with the Emery County fair, a Crandall Canyon Memorial Run was held. Runners ran from varying distances in Huntington Canyon and finished at the bottom of the Crandall Canyon mine road. A half/marathon, 5k and 10k run was held.
Two years ago in the early morning hours of Aug. 6 a mine bounce caused a collapse in a section of the Crandall Canyon Mine. Six miners were trapped at the time of the collapse. These miners include: Kerry Allred, Brandon Phillips, Manny Sanchez, Carlos Payan, Don Erickson and Luis Hernandez. Ten days later three rescuers died in an attempt to reach the trapped miners. The rescuers were Brandon Kimber, Dale Black and Gibb Jensen. After the rescuers died all attempts at a rescue except for the bore holes at the top of the mountain were halted.
Many memorial services were held in the county. News media from around the world descended upon Emery County as they searched for answers to a situation where the answers were few.
The Crandall Canyon mine disaster has resulted in stricter regulations regarding any changes in approved mine plans. The disaster brought about the establishment of the Office of Coal Mine Safety which works to bring more safety to the coal mine industry. An advisory board has also been established which includes local mining experts as well as Emery County Sheriff LaMar Guymon who handled the disaster for the county. The sheriff's office worked around the clock aiding the rescue effort and dealing with the media and others who came to the county because of the disaster.
The families of the miners and rescuers two years down the road are still coping with their losses as they seek to rebuild their lives in the absence of their loved ones who lost their lives in the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster. At the time of the disaster an interfaith memorial service was held on Sept. 9, 2007. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. addressed the audience at that time. Gov. Huntsman said Utah is a great state and this is sacred land and the junior high is a sacred building as it was the gathering place for the families in the early days of the mine disaster. He described Huntington Canyon as sacred land as well. "There has been pain, discomfort and loss on the part of a lot of good people here. We honor friends and fellow citizens who lost their lives in Crandall Canyon and the subsequent rescue attempt. These were men who loved and were loved by others. Their time was cut short. Our community and our state has been hurting. There is not a single person in this crowd or within reach of a television camera who has not felt anguish and shed a tear over the events at Crandall Canyon. Regardless of religious affiliation or nationality it is time to begin healing. This is a time for healing. This is a time for closure. "We need to ensure the lives of Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Manuel Sanchez, Dale Black, Brandon Phillips, Gary Jensen, Carlos Payan and Brandon Kimber live on; our lives by extension are made better.
"Mining and coal are a part of our state and will be for generations to come. Never let it be said that in this time of need we didn't rise to the occasion. We respect our neighbors more. We love a little more and may God bring peace to this community. God bless the state of Utah," said Gov. Huntsman.
Richard Stickler, assistant secretary of labor from MSHA said it is with a heavy heart, they pay tribute to those who died at Crandall Canyon. Many of the MSHA employees come from mining families. "We feel your pain. We lost one of our own. Gary Jensen was a valued member of MSHA. He was all the good that MSHA stands for. He was a devoted member of MSHA and his community. He was an EMT, on the town council a dedicated family man to his wife Lola and four children and three grandchildren. His ideals guided his life and he passed that onto his children. He gave his life to save others. They are true heroes. I pray God will bless and comfort you," said Stickler.
Colin King, family spokesman read tributes about the other eight miners prepared by their families. He said Kerry Allred started life prematurely and spent time in an incubator. He had the nickname of Inky for awhile and later became known as Flash. Kerry would have been 58 years old on Sept. 29. He passed away just six days before his wedding anniversary. He and his wife Bessie have three children, Tifani, Cody and Tylee. Kerry loved the guitar and was a great musician and singer. He included his heart and soul in everything he did. Kerry used his entire body to say hello or goodbye. He enjoyed making people laugh and will continue to have input in their lives. Bessie said Kerry will continue to live on in her heart forever.
Don Erickson was a good father and a good husband. He was a good grandfather and proud of his grandkids. Don had a lot of friends. He enjoyed being in the outdoors and he enjoyed telling stories. Don will be greatly missed and he was loved.
Jose Luis Hernandez was born in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. He and his future wife were neighbors as children and used to fight together. After a certain age the fighting turned to flirting and the two spent time bowling and going to movies. He began coal mining to earn money. He wanted to return to Mexico some day. His wife and daughter were the loves of his life. His wife wishes to express her thanks to all who have helped her during this time. She said the last days have not been easy as their loved ones have returned to God.
Carlos Payan Villa was born in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. He was a dear brother to five siblings. He died as a coal miner. He would send money home to pay for his siblings to go to school and to help his mom and dad pay the bills. He was the life of the party and he loved to drive fast and he loved to exercise. He loved Mexico. The Payan family wishes to send their love to the families of the other miners and express their love and gratitude to the rescuers who gave their lives.
Brandon Phillips was a great son to Jamie and Sheila Phillips of Orangeville. He was a great dad to 5 year old Gage. He spoiled Gage and Gage is a real Daddy's boy. Brandon had a lot of friends and relatives. He loved to go snowboarding even though he got hurt doing it, he would get right back up and try again. Brandon would have been proud of his brothers on the rescue team. He will be missed by all. We love you.
Manny Sanchez was 41 years old. He loved and cared for his family. He paid the ultimate price. He gave his family a beautiful home to live in. Manny was an outdoor guy. He loved hunting and fishing. He liked to go to Green River to the beach. He was very close with his brothers. Manny and Marta were married for 22 years. Manny taught during trials and tribulations to take one day at a time. Manny used to flirt with Martha when she worked in a grocery store. He was strict with his children for the right reasons. It is a shame the grandchildren will never have the chance to meet Manny. Manny was a remarkable, friend, brother and husband and father who was taken too soon. He will stay in our hearts and minds. We will keep moving forward. He will not be left behind.
Dale Black was 48 years old. He had two children Corey and Ashley. His wife is Wendy. Dale had the ability to make friends, no one was a stranger to Dale. He hunted everything you could get a license for. He went to Lake Powell with his son and caught 300 fish. He was a tremendous golfer. It was a buck a hole with Dale. Dale even had enough patience to teach his wife Wendy to golf and he enjoyed taking her. He would drive his ATV 65 mph like a kid. His son-in-law, Brad Pruitt said if everyone in the world were a little more like Dale the world would be a better place. Dale was a hero every day, not just on Aug. 16.
Brandon Kimber was our superman, he was born in Moab and graduated from Grand County High. He was 29 years old. Everyone loved Brandon. He was adventurous. He married Kristen Tiller on Aug. 4, 2001. They had three children, daughter Bryton and twins, Paxton and Payton. Brandon was an attentive father and loved being a daddy. He loved mining and driving the equipment. He would tell of his adventures with Bird, Don, Bodee and Benny. He performed his job well and was proud when he became a boss. His daughter said he was like a superman, 'only he couldn't fly'. Brandon was always willing to do anything for anyone. He was a true angel.