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N. Idaho miner dies after accident in Lucky Friday

A mine worker died Nov. 19 of injuries suffered in an accident Nov. 17 at a northern Idaho silver mine, the operation’s second fatal incident this year.

Lucky Friday Mine officials said Brandon Lloyd Gray of Kellogg died at an undisclosed medical facility with his family at his side. Company officials also withheld Gray’s cause of death.

Officials said Gray was working deep underground Nov. 17 when lose material began giving way beneath him and another miner.

Melanie Hennessey, a spokeswoman with Hecla Mining Co., which owns the Lucky Friday, said mining officials believe Gray was wearing the appropriate safety equipment including a fall-arrest device that activates somewhat like a seatbelt in a car.

However, Hennessey said, the sinking beneath Gray might have been too slow to activate the device, which can also be triggered by the operator.

The second miner was treated and released at an area medical facility, Hennessey said. That miner’s name has not been released.

“Our sincere condolences go out to the family,” Hennessey said. “The safety of our employees is a top priority and we’ll look at ways to make sure that this doesn’t occur again.”

A phone call made by The Associated Press to a family member of Gray in northern Idaho was not answered the evening of Nov. 19.

Cementation U.S.A. Inc., a contractor that employed Gray, and Helca officials are investigating as is the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Hecla officials shut down the mine immediately after the accident and have not yet set a date for resuming operations.

This is the second fatal accident at the Lucky Friday in less than a year. In April, Larry Marek, 53, of Kingston died in a cave-in.

In that death, the Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded that managers of the Lucky Friday engaged in “aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence” by directing workers to mine a support pillar.

Marek’s death was the mine’s first fatality since 1986.

Cementation specializes in mine development. Cementation spokesman Stan Devereux said Gray was not married, and that he grew up in Mullan in a family filled with miners.

Gray never regained consciousness after the accident that occurred about a mile underground, Devereux said without elaborating.

The company said Gray started mining in 2008 and joined Cementation in February.

“The whole Cementation family is grieving the terrible loss, and our immediate focus is in supporting Brandon’s family with our assistance and prayers,” Mike Nadon, Cementation president, said in a statement.

The No. 4 shaft where Gray was working is about 5,000 feet underground, and the company plans over the next several years to go 8,800 feet underground.

“We are deeply saddened by Brandon’s passing,” said Phil Baker, Hecla’s president and chief operating officer. “Everyone in Hecla extends our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”

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