Father of 3 Dies in 'Devastating' Flash Flood Near Utah Coal Mine: 'The Rock of Their Family'

Gary Nelson, 48, was swept downstream near the Gentry Mountain Mine

Gary Nelson - Bear Canyon mine flash flood
Gary Nelson. Photo: GoFundMe

A coal miner was killed after a "devastating" flash flood tore through a Utah canyon, sweeping him away from his fellow miners downstream, officials said.

Mine crews heading up a hill to the Gentry Mountain Mine in Huntington Canyon first saw a "wall of water and debris" coming down Bear Canyon around 10:15 p.m. on Sunday, the Emery County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

One of three mining vehicles in the area was able to reverse the vehicle upon seeing the flood, but was unable to get out of its direct path.

"They then exited to higher ground, but water and debris swept on both sides of them," the release said. "One man was swept into the water and carried downstream."

His body was recovered about six miles downstream at 11:15 a.m. on Monday following an overnight search by the Emery County Sheriff's Office, Emery County Search and Rescue and Gentry Mountain Mine.

The victim was identified as 48-year-old Gary Nelson, a father of three who had worked at the mine for the past 10 years, according to a follow-up statement from the sheriff's office.

A GoFundMe page organized by his sister-in-law said he was the "main supporter" of his family, who live in Fairview, Utah.

"Today my sister and her girls received news that no family wants to hear," she wrote. "My brother in law Gary was killed in the flash flood by Huntington. My brother in law was the rock of their family and the main supporter. This fund will help my sister and her girls until things get situated without having to stress about money while they are going through this grieving process."

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Two other sets of mining crews also encountered the flooding, but survived, according to the sheriff's office.

The first man impacted was a miner coming off his shift in a two-person mine vehicle.

"As the flood overtook his vehicle, he was able to reach out and grab a tree which pulled him from the vehicle," the release said. "He was unable to hold on to the tree and was then carried about ¼ mile down the canyon."

A second vehicle carrying eight men up to the mine was hit next by the flood and debris, and although the vehicle rolled four times, crews were able to kick out the windows and get to safety.

The sheriff's office noted it was a "surface flood event" that did not affect underground personnel.

"Our deepest condolences go to Gary's family, friends and co-workers at this difficult time," the statement read.

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