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Miner who survived collapse recovering, anxious to get back to work

Published: Sunday, March 24 2013 8:57 p.m. MDT

The gate to the Rhino Mine access road is locked one day after a collapse killed one miner and injured another in Emery County on Saturday, March 23, 2013.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) The gate to the Rhino Mine access road is locked one day after a collapse killed one miner and injured another in Emery County on Saturday, March 23, 2013. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

HUNTINGTON — Two days after the roof of a mine collapsed, killing his friend, coworker and cousin, Dallen McFarlane doesn't hesitate when asked if he will be looking for work outside of mining.

"No," he said Sunday, sitting with a broken leg. "It scares (my wife). She gets worried. But you just try to be careful and pay attention and hope nothing bad happens. You're grateful that you made it through."

He then added: "Everyone is grateful that I made it and are sad Elam didn't."

Elam Jones, 29, was killed Friday when a 10-by-10 foot, 22-inch thick slab of rock fell on him and McFarlane at the Rhino Mine in Bear Canyon around 3:15 p.m. McFarlane's leg was hurt in the collapse.

A collapse killed one miner and injured another on Friday at the Rhino Mine in Bear Canyon, near Huntington.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) A collapse killed one miner and injured another on Friday at the Rhino Mine in Bear Canyon, near Huntington. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

"I just got banged up real bad and I've got to get my knee looked at," McFarlane said. "Other than that, I feel like I got ran over by a truck but everything came out good on me. I was pretty lucky."

It wasn't the first time either man had encountered death in the mines, as McFarlane said both he and Jones were part of the rescue efforts at the Crandall Canyon Mine. There, in August 2007, six miners and three rescuers were killed after two collapses.

He and Jones returned to work after that incident and worked side by side at the Rhino Mine.

"Everybody liked him," McFarlane said of his friend. "He was a real happy guy, a good guy, and so you just enjoyed your work day with him."

Jones leaves behind a wife and two young sons, ages 4 and 5.

McFarlane doesn't recall too much about what happened or what he thought when the ceiling collapsed on them Friday. It happened too fast, McFarlane said.

"Once the dust clears you realize whether you're alive or dead and that's all you can realize," he said.

Jones's father and grandfather worked in the mining industry for decades, Jones' father, Derk, said Saturday. His mother, Julie, said Elam Jones always thought he would die in a mine and and "that's where he'd have wanted it."

Investigators with the Mine Safety and Health Administration were investigating the incident. Jones' family said they believed the mine was safe and the mine maintained a below-average injury rate in 2012

Derk Jones continues to work in the mines and McFarlane said he planned to get back to work once he saw a doctor and determined whether or not he needed surgery. Mining is still a job he loves, despite his close call.

"You get a group of friends that's just real — a real tight group of friends — and know that everybody is there to help everybody. To me it's a good environment to be in. It's fun, it's enjoyable. it's a good line of work to be in."

Contributing: Emiley Morgan

E-mail: niyamba@ksl.com

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