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Advancing Utah's Energy Future

Coal miners’ memorial rises from tragedy, honor and community sacrifice

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Amy Joi O’Donoghue – Deseret News

On this day when there is iced snow on the ground and a biting March wind is rustling among the evergreens, Frank Markosek will not say much.

His tears, just barely visible, say enough.

The tears detail the pain evoked from visiting this place for only the second time since the Crandall Canyon mine disaster — the second time since that awful day in that awful month of that awful year that seemed like just yesterday.

The story his tears tell is that of six men forever entombed deep in the belly of Crandall Canyon Mine, of how Markosek nearly died trying to save them, of how his injuries have left him not quite right, with a metal plate in his head and 14 broken bones that still hurt at times. And how that has to be OK.

Because if Markosek had it do it all over again, if he had to rush into the portal of the mine with the rescue team and risk getting crushed by tons of rock to try to save those men like he did eight years ago, he wouldn’t flinch. It is just what a mining man does, try to save his brothers.

The six miners were buried and died. Three rescuers were killed 10 days later when a “seismic bump” hit the area. Markosek and five others were injured, but survived.

“This is sacred ground,” he said, speaking in a near whisper at the solemn Crandall Canyon memorial, where the faces of the lost men are etched in stone: Kerry Allred, Luis Hernandez, Brandon Phillips, Carlos Payan, Manuel Sanchez and Don Erickson. The names also remain on the six badges that still hang outside the entrance of the mine, waiting to be retrieved at the conclusion of a shift that will never end. The mountain saw to that. (…)

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