Flash flooding takes the life of Sanpete County coal miner

A debris flow left after a flash flood on Sunday that took the life of a coal miner from Fairview. The site is Bear Canyon, a branch of Huntington Canyon in Emery County.

HUNTINGTON CANYON, Emery County—Flash flooding in the Hunting Canyon area on Sunday night took the life of a Sanpete County coal miner.

The body of Gary Nelson of Fairview, a veteran of more than 10 years at the Emery County-based Gentry Mountain Mine, was recovered Monday during a search and rescue mission after he was swept into flood waters and carried away six miles downstream, according to a news release from Emery County.

The mine, which is located in Bear Canyon, a branch canyon of Huntington, was hit hard by the flooding at approximately 10:15 p.m. on Monday.

“As mine crews were heading up the hill to enter the Gentry Mountain coal mine, crews witnessed a wall of water and debris coming down Bear Canyon,” stated the release.

Nelson was in one of three company vehicles threatened by the flooding. The driver of Nelson’s vehicle saw the wall of debris and water approaching and tried to outmaneuver it, but was unable to do so. As the water and debris swept around the vehicle, Nelson was swept away with it.

Two other mine vehicles were traveling the canyon to either enter or exit the mine at the time. The driver of one climbed onto a tree as the flood overtook his vehicle, but none the less got carried away in the waters. He was later rescued and transported to a hospital. According to Emery County officials, he is expected to recover.

Aiding the search was a state helicopter, staff from the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, the Huntington Fire Department, the Emery County Road Department, Butler Trucking, UDOT, staff of the PacifiCorp Huntington Power Plant, Utah Adult Probation and Parole and Emery County EMS.

“It should be noted that this was a surface flood event and did not impact underground personnel,” the release stated. “ECSO (the Emery County Sheriff’s Office) sends deepest condolences to the family of the victim as well as the entire Gentry Mining family.”

In related news, the Manti-La Sal National Forest said the recent storms fell on burn scars in the forest, creating flash floods and debris flows. Forest staff are working to clear roadways and culverts in up to 17 locations, including Ferron Canyon, Skyline Drive, Link Fork and Lake Fork, a press release said.

The family has setup a GoFundMe to support Nelson’s wife and daughters.

Contributions to organizations such as GoFundMe are at the risk of the individual depositor or donor. The Sanpete Messenger does not assure funds contributed will be used for the described purpose.

This story was updated to include a link to the family’s GoFundMe information. (08/04/2021, 4:22pm)