Officials: 2 killed, 1 hospitalized after industrial accident

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MOAB — Two men were electrocuted and one was found unconscious Saturday afternoon after an industrial accident at the Intrepid Potash Mine, officials report.

Shortly after noon, three men were shocked when the industrial equipment they had been working on touched a power line, according to a news release from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

The men were "pulling a pump out on one of the ponds and the heavy equipment they were using to pull the pump came in contact with the power lines," said San Juan County Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Palmer.

One of the men was driving a forklift while the other two were maneuvering the pump, which Palmer estimated weighed 300-400 pounds, in attempt to get it into the back of a flatbed pickup truck.

"I'm thinking when it touched the truck that's what connected (the current to) the ground" and shocked the men, Palmer said.

Two of the men died at the scene. Officials identified them as Russell Helquist and Matthew Johnston.

The third man, identified as Arthur Secrest, was found in "extremely critical condition" and was flown to the University of Utah's Burn Center in Salt Lake City where he remained in critical condition Saturday evening, Grand County Emergency Medical Services said in a news release.

"These men were well-known and respected in the community and several of our responding paramedics and EMTs knew them personally," the release read.

Palmer called the incident a "very unfortunate accident."

"It's very tragic when something like this happens locally — it affects everyone," he said.

Grand County Emergency Medical Services officials first reported the incident, being called a “reported explosion,” about 12:42 p.m. on Facebook.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office, Grand County Sheriff's Office, Moab police and Moab Valley Fire Department also responded to the incident.

The incident remains under investigation.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of these good men,” San Juan County officials said.

In a statement to KSL, Intrepid spokesman Matt Preston said all operations at the facility have been suspended pending an investigation.

"Intrepid expresses its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved," the statement read.

No other information about the incident was immediately available.

Contributing: Jacob Klopfenstein,


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Yvette Cruz is the social media manager for She oversees the social media strategy for the local news outlet and seeks different ways to inform Utah audiences through various platforms. Yvette is also the editor of the lifestyle section. Prior to joining she worked as an assignment desk editor for the local Univision station in Chicago.


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