Elam Jones came close to death in a central Utah mine accident once before. He was preparing to begin his shift at the Crandall Canyon mine in August 2007 when a cave-in struck the section where he was to have worked, killing six miners. He was also a member of the ill-fated rescue team that lost three members in a second collapse.
The 28-year-old coal miner’s luck ran out Friday. A tunnel roof collapsed at the Rhino Mine about 10 miles west of Huntington, killing him and sending a co-worker to the hospital.
Even though the earlier accident occurred only a few miles away, Jones loved his job and did not view it as particularly dangerous, said his mother, Julie Jones, a Huntington, Utah, city councilwoman.
“He loved the mine he was at and the men he worked with. They were family,” she said Saturday. “He always said he could get hit going to Salt Lake and get killed in a car wreck.”
Friday’s accident was the latest in a string of disasters to strike Huntington, a closely knit town of over 2,000. They include the Crandall Canyon mine tragedy as well as a 75-square-mile wildfire that triggered flooding and road closures last year.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘How much more can one community take?’ ” Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon said. “I guess we’ll take whatever gets dished out and take it one day at time.”