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Family Rappells Down Mine, Locates Body Of Teen After Sheriff Gave Up

January 19, 1996

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The uncle of an 18-year-old who died while exploring an abandoned mine rappelled down hundreds of feet into the mine before dawn today and found his body. The sheriff had called off the search, saying it was too dangerous.

Jeremiah Etherington’s family telephoned at 4 a.m. today to say they had reached Etherington’s body under a pile of timber, rocks and other mine debris, Tooele County Sheriff Frank Scharmann said. The relatives retrieved the body by hoisting it to the surface with ropes, after first hoisting up some of the debris that had covered it.

The teen had fallen off a ledge into the shaft Saturday while he and several others were spelunking in the Honorene Mine, a silver mine founded in the 1860s and abandoned in 1928.

The extraordinary retrieval came three days after the Scharmann called off the search. A searcher, Curtis Allen, had rappelled 350 feet into the mine without spotting Etherington’s body. He did see a pile of debris about 100 feet below him.

Allen had said that continuing farther down the mine would have been dangerous because ``there were 2 or 3 tons of material above my head that was not secured. I went (about 100 feet) below it despite my better judgment.″

About five family and friends were involved in moving the debris and bringing the body out today. It was turned over to the state medical examiner, Scharmann said.

``They could not settle for him to stay down there,″ said Jewel Etherington, the youth’s grandmother.

She said an uncle, Keith Fivas, apparently found the body, which was hoisted by ropes to the surface.

``I feel they were pretty fortunate to make the descent down there,″ Scharmann said. ``It turned out fine and I’m glad nobody else got hurt.″

The mine, 32 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, is one of dozens of abandoned lead, silver and zinc mines that dot the area. It had been sealed, but the grate over the opening had been moved some time ago.

Jewel Etherington said the family had contacted the owner of the land where the mine is located, and he was very cooperative in allowing the search.

The sheriff said he had not ordered the family to stay away from the mine and would not have interfered even if he had known about the retrieval effort in advance.

``They didn’t know that and I’m sure that’s why they went in in the cover of darkness,″ he said. ``I couldn’t have stopped them. The mine shaft is not mine.″

Abandoned mines are supposed to be off limits but are attractive to would-be explorers.

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