20-Thousand Abandoned Mines Create Danger for the Curious

20-Thousand Abandoned Mines Create Danger for the Curious

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Richard Piatt ReportingA fatal cave accident serves as a reminder about abandoned mines in Utah -- there are thousands of potential danger spots in the state. Experts say the deaths of four Utah County young people serve as a reminder to stay out of abandoned mines and caves.

Yesterday's accident site is not considered a true 'mine', but there are plenty of real abandoned mines that hold the same deadly temptation for the curious.

Just in the Big Cottonwood mine district, right along the Wasatch Front, there are probably a thousand abandoned mines. Each present the same kind of danger four young people discovered in a cave yesterday.

Joe Ferguson, Friend of Victims, 9-1-1 Call: "Four of them went under there and they said they'd be right back, and it's been a long time and I'm freaking out."

Joe Ferguson of Reno had cause to be concerned. His Four friends were probably already dead when he made that 9-1-1 call. Each drowned, according to the Utah County Medical examiner, deep under ground, in a cave that had been expanded for the water inside.

The place was narrow, dark, and obviously dangerous. That's why Provo city officials quickly decided to seal the opening. 'No Trespassing' signs and a concrete-and-rock wall now block the entrance. In addition, Provo is working with state and federal land officials to find other, similar spots.

So far, this one appears to be an anomaly. But there are plenty of abandoned mines in Utah, which actually present a more common and real danger to more people.

Four military men found that out as they shot some home video. All trespassed in a Nevada mine on the fourth of July, 1998. They were naturally curious, lured by adventure in the underground mine. Then something went wrong. One of the men fell 65 feet when his rope slipped, and was seriously injured.

Injuries and deaths don't happen every day, but the temptation to explore a mine does. That's why the state spends one and half million dollars a year to find the mines and seal them up,

Mark Mesch, Abandoned Mine Reclamation: "They think, 'well there must be me mining artifacts in there,' and it's a real draw to people to go in there. It's not worth it."

Statewide, there are 20-thousand abandoned mines and the state has a one and a half million dollar budget to find them and seal them up.

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