Gary Nelson died Sunday during a devastating flash flood while working at Gentry Mountain Mine in Bear Canyon, Utah. The 48-year-old man was a dedicated husband and a father of three, according to his family.
A news release from Emery County Sheriff’s Office reported that the flash flood occurred late Sunday night “as mine crews were heading up the hill to enter the Gentry Mountain coal mine.” It was about 10:15 p.m. when a “wall of water and debris” came down Bear Canyon causing immediate chaos and destruction.
Gary Nelson was swept away by the terrifying current and his body was found the next morning. The Emery County Sheriff’s Office wrote in the news release that the department “sends [its] deepest condolences to the family of the victim as well as the entire Gentry Mining family.”
The news release details the harrowing events as mine crews struggled to survive the flash flood. “One man just coming off shift in a 2-person mine vehicle was the first to be impacted,” according to the news release.
“As the flood overtook his vehicle, he was able to reach out and grab a tree which pulled him from the vehicle. He was unable to hold on to the tree and was then carried about 1/4 mile down the canyon.” The man was not named but authorities said that “he was transported to a hospital and is expected to recover.”
The flash flood intercepted a second vehicle, which was carrying eight men to the coal mine late Sunday night. The vehicle “was then hit by the flood and debris,” it said in the news release. “The flood caused the vehicle to roll 4 times” but crews escaped to safety after kicking out the windows.
A third mine vehicle “was farther down the canyon,” when the flash flood caught up to it. Miners “saw the wall of water and debris” and “were able to reverse the vehicle and attempted to move it out of the direct path of the flood but were unable to do so.” The miners withdrew to high ground, but one was swept away into the water and carried downstream.
With help from the Emery County Sheriff’s Office, Emery County Search and Rescue, and personnel from Gentry Mountain Mine, the miner’s body was found early Monday morning. Gary Nelson’s body was found six miles downstream. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Emery County Sheriff’s Office identified Gary Nelson in a subsequent news release on Tuesday. It claimed that Nelson, “a 48-year-old resident of Fairview, Utah, had worked at the mine for the past 10 years.” Nelson was a husband and father of three. The news release pointed out that a GoFundMe was created to help support members of the Nelson family.
Since its creation on Monday, the GoFundMe page has raised over $7,000. According to the main post on the page, the fund will help support Gary Nelson’s wife and three daughters.
The funds raised will also go toward “funeral expenses and other bills” to make sure Nelson’s family does not have “to stress about money while they [go] through this grieving process.” According to the post, Gary Nelson was “the rock” of the family “and the only one who worked to provide” for his wife and kids.
The president of the Utah Mining Association, Brian Somers, said in a statement that the flash flood “is something that’s going to affect the mining industry greatly especially these communities. These are tight-knit, small rural communities that these operations are in, so anytime you have a tragedy like this, it’s going to affect the whole community.”
He continued, saying that “a lot of these folks that have worked in these operations for years — [Gary Nelson] has actually worked at Gentry Mountain for more than 10 years.”
Authorities said that the miners underground were unaffected by the flash flood. The water did not impact the operations underground, and repairs are now underway.