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Front Page » November 3, 2011 » Carbon County News » 1981: Price woman survives wilderness plane crash
Published 999 days ago

1981: Price woman survives wilderness plane crash


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. The article is being written from front page stories that appeared during each year in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.

The year began in the black; not the black of financial well being, but the black of no power. On Jan. 8 a massive power outage hit all of Utah and parts of Wyoming and Idaho. The outage took place at 11:25 a.m. which forced schools and many businesses to shut down for the day once people began to realized this just wasn't a bump in the power supply. However, while the outage was general in nature, small parts of Carbon County still had power, at least off and on, during the four hour black out.

A cougar that wandered into a residential area of Wellington killed a Doberman Pinscher and then jumped out at two boys near the old dry ice plant as they played nearby. They ran, the cougar did not. Later wildlife and animal control officers set a trap for the big cat, but it kept avoiding the device so eventually the officers had to use a noose to capture it.

That winter tensions were high at Carbon High School as an element, some of which were not connected with the school, threatened violence during and after basketball games. Warnings to police brought a heavy presence of law enforcement at a game between Carbon and Cedar City early in February and then the police were asked onto campus again during the remainder of the season. During the Cedar City game they seized alcohol and baseball bats that were reportedly planned to be used in a fight after the game. They also issued a number of citations for various things.

Punctuating this was the appearance of a man during the school noon hour one day that was told to leave campus by a custodian who summoned Principal Gene Crocco when the man wouldn't leave. He then went to his vehicle and pulled out a gun from a duffel bag, Crocco exchanged words with the man and the man pointed the gun at the Principal and threatened to kill him. The man left the school but later returned, but was arrested by police before he could cause any further problems. A complaint was filed against him by Crocco.

In March the Utah Supreme Court threw out the 1978 conviction of a man for the theft of some matches and toilet paper at gunpoint in a Wellington home. They ordered a retrial. During the incident Larry Vale Potter entered a home and told the residents to give him the items, then shook the hand of the man who gave them to him and left. Potter was later stopped after his car was spotted and a chase ensued.

The original sentence, when he was convicted, was five years in prison and a $2,000 fine. But Judge Boyd Bunnell of the Seventh District Court suspended the prison sentence upon his payment of a $500 fine. One of the other stipulations was that Potter quit drinking (which was one of the reasons the defense gave for the incident occurring in the first place). Bunnell later reinstated the prison sentence because he found out the man had been drinking again.

On March 28 union mines across the county went on strike along with coal miners across the country because no new contract had been negotiated and ratified. Soon after the strike started a negotiated settlement was put together, but while local miners accepted the proposal (District 22 voted 1,316-598 to accept it), across the nation members of the United Mine Workers of America rejected it. In April the UMWA started giving food out to striking miners. The bulk of the workers were out until June 8 when a contract was approved by the membership.

Two employees of a firm doing engineering work for Utah Power and Light were the targets of violence in April. Two pipe bombs went off outside their residences in the county and one was later shot while driving near the Elks Club on 100 North after they received threatening letters concerning their activities. Two other people that worked for the firm also received letters. A $20,000 reward was offered in the crimes by authorities and the company that employed the men. One of the men sent his family out of the area because of the threats and subsequent actions. Subsequently the reward was raised to $31,000 the next week.

A bridge leading to Nine Mile Canyon and the Soldier Creek Mine was burned by vandals on April 26. The fire was discovered early that morning, but it had been burning for two or three hours by that point and by the time it was extinguished the bridge was basically a total loss. The sheriff's department downplayed the bridge burning as being part of the labor unrest that was going on in the county because of the strike in the coal mines.

An inadequate jail facility remained so for a few more years after voters rejected a bond to get $1.5 million to build a new building. The vote in the county was 1,399-304 against the bond. The county was concerned about lawsuits and other problems arising from the inadequacy of the jail and the fact that it was too small, but voters still turned down the idea.

A Price woman, on her first solo flight, turned out to be big news in the area in June. Sherleen Jaussi who was flying from Grand Junction, Colo. to Blanding came up missing on June 23. Searchers began looking for her plane right away. Planes in the area flew thousands of miles searching for her, with fears rising every day that she would not be found alive. But only a few days later she was found alive. She had crashed after hitting some rough air the plane had come down in an aspen grove. She survived by using the chewing gum she had, sucking moisture from roots and by eating tree bark.

She said that planes searching for her must have flown over the area at least 40 times, but that the trees obscured the view of her craft. She was greeted at the Price Airport by 200 well wishers when she was flown to Price the night she was found.

For those that think that the reapportionment battle that has gone on this year concerning congressional and state office districts is something that has only been happening in the last few years, but the conflicts were alive and well 30 years ago as well. Governor Scott Matheson had already rejected one plan for house seats in the legislature that the body had devised when another proposed plan submitted for approval in November split Carbon County in two once again.

In December the governor decided not to make the issue a political fight by not vetoing the plan, nor by endorsing it. That put two Democrat representatives in the same district with John Garr from East Carbon and Mike Dmitrich of Price having to duke it out with each other in the 1982 election to win the newly bordered district. It also put western and northern Carbon County in a district with the population centers of Sanpete County. Carbon Democrats formed an organization called "Save our Carbon County Organization (SOCCO)" to fight the legislative map. By the end of the year a court challenge had surfaced concerning the new redistricting.

Finally at the end of the year, with the planned Highway 6 by-pass road only about half finished (Helper to east Price) the Utah Transportation Commission dropped any plans for completing the road which would have run east and south past Wellington into Cat Canyon. The plans had official support from Carbon County and Wellington, but as it progressed cold feet began to appear between the supporters and those opposed to by-passing Wellington became more adamant that it would damage Wellington's chances for new business.

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