1986: Chlorine leak starts year with tears, Price is 75 years old
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 with people with tears in their eyes as the Price swimming pool was evacuated because of a chlorine leak. At the time of the incident there were 20-25 swimmers in the pool on Jan. 18. A bleeder valve on the chlorine line to the pool apparently released the chemical into the air because of a plugged line. While paramedics treated 10 people with oxygen, none showed up at the hospital complaining of symptoms from the exposure.
In early February, a Price truck shop was gutted by fire which caused about $300,000 in damage. The fire apparently started when hot ashes were placed outside the coal furnace that was used to heat the facility and they somehow got into the coal storage and took the blaze up through the roof. The fire happened on only one of two nights when crews working on trucks did not work 24 hours a day (a Friday).
The year of 1986 was also Price City's 75th birthday. A number of festivities were planned and held throughout the year to commemorate the town's incorporation, but the first weekend after the April 1 anniversary of the signing of Price into becoming a third class city was when the kickoff was held. Movies of the town from the 1930s were shown, a parade was held, a luncheon and dinner were given and overall the towns people celebrated the city's birth. The Diamond Jubilee, as it was called was a big success. According to the Sun Advocate of April 4 this was the first time the town had officially celebrated its birthday.
In mid-April it was announced that Utah Power and Light would take over direct control of its coal mines in Emery County. The move did away with a pact with Emery Mining which UP&L had running its mines for a number of years. The mines affected were Deer Creek, Des-Bee-Dove, Cottonwood and the Wilberg Mine.
In May, Koret of California, an employer in the area since the 1960s, announced it would close down its Carbon County factory permanently in July. However, in mid-June the company announced they had decided not to close the clothes making operation. The closure would have put at least another 125 people out of a job, on top of many who were being laid off from mining operations in the area at the same time. However, in August it was announced that Koret of California was being sold.
In May a hot air balloon that was in a coast to coast air race came down in the Book Cliffs above Kenilworth in the middle of the night. The two men on board were not injured and actually turned their emergency locator beacon on themselves and then went to sleep hoping air and ground crews would find them the next day. Air crews found them early in the day and some ground personnel went to the site of the unexpected landing. When they found no one was injured they came back. The balloon and basket were flown to the Carbon County Airport by helicopter and then it was loaded on a truck and sent back home to New Mexico. The race had originated in California.
The next week an accident in a fixed wing aircraft proved just the opposite. Six people died with the corporate jet they were in crashed in the mountains above East Carbon. All were management personnel from Kaiser Steel and were en route from Colorado Springs, Colo. to the Carbon County Airport. The plane came from a cruising height of 23,000 feet to 12,000 feet in only a few minutes and then went off radar screens. Weather conditions and snow still on the ground in the highlands hampered what was hoped to be rescue efforts.
A high speed chase of two teenagers, one from Salt Lake and the other from Provo (but originally from Clawson) ended with the Provo boy being killed in an accident. A Utah Highway Patrolman started pursuit of the car after the vehicle made an illegal pass in Price. The car turned onto Carbon Avenue and headed south on SR-10 toward Emery County. A Carbon County Sheriff's Deputy set up road block with his car about two miles south of Four Mile Hill. But the teenagers car never made it to the roadblock. The driver of the car that was being chased apparently shut his lights off so he could not be seen and ran off the right side of the road into a dry wash where the vehicle hit a guard rail and became airborne. The pair were going as such speed that both of them were found 300-400 feet from the guard rail they hit, having been ejected from the car.
In July MSHA investigators were finally able to enter the Wilberg Mine, site of the 1984 fire that killed 27 people. In late September a preliminary report was released by MSHA and the Utah State Industrial Commission that the fire had started because of a faulty compressors heat sensitive switch which had been rendered inoperative. Many disagreed with the findings at that time. A final report was to be issued in early 1987.
Cut for photo: Runners race in front of old Carbon County Hospital just before it was turned over to the College of Eastern Utah by Price City and Carbon County in 1986. The building went through a remodeling in the early 1990s and is known as the Western Instructional Building today.