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Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
Robert Murray, co-owner of Crandall Canyon Mine, points at timbers near the blocked tunnel in the mine where six miners were trapped and died in August 2007.

Some of the first words in the media quoting Robert Murray on Aug. 6, 2007, were "Pray, pray, pray," as work began to dig out six men trapped in the Crandall Canyon Mine that day.

As CEO of Murray Energy, co-owner of the mine, and as co-owner of mine operator Genwal Resources Inc., Murray quickly became the person people tuned their TVs to or opened their papers to for updates on the six miners.

On Aug. 7, however, a press conference led by Murray cemented into some people's minds the image of a man who seemed overly concerned about defending the coal-mining industry, debating the merits of global warming and lashing out at media.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's Richard Stickler eventually took over during media briefings.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. publicly criticized Murray, who shot back in an Aug. 22 letter to the governor. Murray asked Huntsman to quit "attacking" him.

Others chose to read between the lines, defending Murray's outburst, using words like "impassioned" and "professional" to describe him.

Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, wanted to meet with Murray several days after the collapse. He has known Murray since the 1970s.

"I thought he needed a friend to talk to," Dmitrich said in a recent interview.

When he was 18, Dmitrich went underground as a miner, working in mines for three years. For 30 years after that he made a career in government and public affairs for mine operators. His own father was killed in a mine when there was a bounce. Dmitrich felt a kinship with Murray at the time.

"I really got feeling sorry for him," Dmitrich said. "He was very troubled at the time."

Dmitrich described Murray as committed to do all he could to get the six trapped miners out. "He didn't pull any punches from a financial standpoint," Dmitrich said. He hasn't heard from Murray since their meeting.

On Aug. 16, three men died in another collapse while trying to rescue their colleagues. One of those rescuers was Dale Black.

Murray personally visited Wendy Black soon after her husband, Dale, was killed. He met her at her home in Huntington to say he was "sorry" and that he tried to uncover Dale.

"He was very kind to me," Black said. She also hasn't heard from Murray since then.

But lots of people, including Washington lawmakers, want to hear what Murray has to say about events leading up to the Aug. 6 collapse. Only he's not talking. And his son Rob Murray recently told the Deseret News his father is not granting interviews.

Several reports issued over the past year have cast blame on the mine operator, Crandall Canyon's mining engineering consultant Agapito Associates Inc., and on the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. After MSHA completed its investigation, it proposed fining Genwal a historic $1.3 million and Agapito $220,000. It is expected those fines will be appealed.

The closest thing to a comment from Murray in recent months came from a statement by an attorney for Genwal July 24, when MSHA disclosed the results of its investigation into the Crandall Canyon disaster.

"In closing, it should be noted that while Genwal and our related companies have safely mined for millions of man-hours, there is no more humbling experience than a tragedy of this magnitude," the statement read. "And we'll never forget the heroism we saw across the spectrum from the families of loved ones, to employees, to MSHA's own inspector, (Gary) "Gibb" Jensen, who gave his life trying to save others."


Today: A mine disaster hits home, impacts felt afar.

Monday: A sculptor's heartfelt tribute to the miners.


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