|The Mathis Canyon fire burns on the other side of the Bookcliffs from Kenilworth last summer as a team of firefighters look on at one of the many briefings that took place during the effort to defeat the blaze. The Mathis fire is considered to be the second biggest story of the year in Carbon county next to the Crandall Canyon mine disaster.|
Numerous major events occurred in the Castle Valley region during 2007.
The local news coverage of some of the incidents spanned many months, while several were short-lived, but had a significant impact on the area.
The editorial team at the Sun Advocate reviewed the events and idrentified the six major news stories for the year. The top stories include:
Crandall Canyon disaster
They started in the early morning hours of Aug. 6 when a huge bounce occurred at the Crandall Canyon mine near Huntington.
Management of Crandall Canyon claimed the bump was an earthquake, while scientists at the University of Utah indicated that the disturbance was caused by the mine collapsing.
Trapped inside the mine were six local miners, Don Erickson of Helper, Manuel Sanchez of Price, Kerry Allred of Cleveland, Jose Luis Hernandez, of Huntington, Juan Carlos Payan of Huntington and Brandon Phillips of Orangeville.
At first, there was hope that the miners would be rescued from the mine as crews moved in to drill holes into the areas where officials thought the men might be.
Rescue teams scrambled to clear the debris from the portal in an attempt to reach the trapped miners through the existing tunnel system.
But on Aug. 16, three rescue workers were killed when a tunnel crews were clearing exploded from the sides. The collapse was caused by the pressure from rock above the shaft.
The incident halted the rescue efforts within the mine as the area mourned the loss of MSHA roof control specialist Gary Jensen and Castle Country coal miners Brandon Kimber and Dale Black.
After Aug. 16, all hopes were pinned on the holes being bored from the surface into the mine.
But with each drill completion, hope went downhill as rescuers found mine tunnels via a portable camera filled with debris and no sign of life.
Drilling continued up through the first part of September and a search robot was sent down one of the holes to look for the miners, but failed.
The miners were never recovered and the ramifications concerning the situation have gone on through the entire year for the community.
A mining commission was established by the state to look into mine safety. Layoffs have occurred involving safety issues and many additional coal mining related situations have come to light during the ensuing months.
Mathis Canyon wildfire.
On July 5, a severe thunderstorm produced numerous lightning strikes, one hit an area in Mathis Canyon near Willow Creek and created a blaze that turned into the number one priority wildfire in the nation.
The wildfire threatened coal mining operations in the Bookcliffs and numerous federal resources were committed to fight the blaze.
At one point, 600 firefighters and support personnel were on the scene and the blaze was extinguished within a few days.
Education board fails to renew superintent’s contract
On Jan. 10, the board of education voted to not renew the contract of David Armstrong.
After serving as superintendent for five years, Armstrong negotiated with the school district and vacated the position in March, when Patsy Bueno assumed the helm.
The move triggered many personnel changes in the district during the next few months as new principals were named at three elementary schools and at Carbon High.
Unemployment dips, while turnovers climb in county
The unemployment rate in Carbon County dropped to the lowest level in recent memory during 2007.
The strong economy in Utah in general and the energy industry in particular created the situation.
For the first time in many years, widespread help wanted signs appeared at businesses around the county.
The Crandall Canyon disaster and subsequent layoffs did not significantly affect Carbon County’s jobless figures and the high rate of employment continued through the end of 2007.
CEU, SEATC merge
The 2007 Utah Legislature merged the College of Eastern Utah and the Southeast Technical College, effective July 1.
CEU handled many SEATC functions until the early 1990s by CEU, but the state had separated the two to create different educational tracks.
Students who attend SEATC can now take classes on the CEU campus.
The reunification was not painless and some issues between the two entities are still being worked out at years end.
Plane crash claims two lives
On June 22, a small Mooney M20C passenger plane crashed approximately one mile north of Carbon County Airport, killing pilot Richard P. Hall, 48, and Theresa Cerrone, 50, of Billings, Mont.
After landing at the airport for fuel, the pilot had taken off and headed toward Moab en route to Arizona. For an unknown reason, the plane attempted to return to the airport, hit the power lines and flipped onto the ground.