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At least one person killed in flash flooding in Emery County

Flooding at Gentry Mountain Mine in Emery County took the life of one man when he was swept from his mining vehicle. Photo: Emery County Sheriff's Office

HUNTINGTON CANYON, Utah — Flash flooding at an Emery County mine resulted in the death of at least one person on Sunday when water and debris swept him six miles downstream. 

Emery County flooding: “A wall of water and debris” 

According to a news release from the Emery County Sheriff’s Office, the flooding took place on the surface at the Gentry Mountain Mine around 10:15 p.m. on Sunday. The mine is located in Bear Canyon, a side canyon off Huntington Canyon. 

The sheriff’s office said crews on their way to the mine “witnessed a wall of water and debris coming down Bear Canyon.” 

 

Investigators say the flood happened during a shift change at the mine while three different vehicles, or “mantrips” were going up and down the canyon road.  Emery County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Janalee Luke says the driver of the third vehicle saw the flood coming straight at them.

She tells KSL, “The driver put it in reverse in an attempt to get out of the direct path of the flood.”

However, the worker reportedly knew the debris was moving too quickly for them to drive away from the problem.

“They could tell they weren’t going to be able to completely escape the flood, so they topped and got out and climbed to higher ground,” she says.

Luke says the workers were able to climb to the top of a nearby berm as the water rushed toward them.

“As the water came down, it went on both sides of what they were standing on.  So, for a time, they were surrounded by water,” according to Luke

That’s when Luke says one man lost his footing and fell into the swift-moving water.

She says, “He slipped down into the side that had the deepest water.

Search crews hoped to bring in a Department of Public Safety helicopter to search for the man, but the weather wouldn’t allow it.  The man’s body was spotted by ground crews before noon on Monday, roughly six miles downstream.

A sad reminder for people in mining towns

Even though this was a weather disaster and not a mining accident, Huntington Mayor Leonard Norton says this tragedy reminds them of tragedies of the past.

“It hits hard because we’re all in a mining community and we have friends that work in the mine,” Norton says.  “It opens old wounds of old disasters that we’ve had.”

Miners trapped by flooding, debris

Two other “mantrips” were also impacted from the flood.  Luke says the waters hit one vehicle from behind, washing it into the valley.  The driver reportedly grabbed a tree branch and was able to hold on for a short time, but Luke says he lost his grip and slid a quarter mile downstream.  That man has been rushed to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

Another vehicle carrying eight workers rolled four times after hitting the wall.  Those men were able to kick out the windows and escape

The flooding did not impact any underground operations at the mine. 

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