1998: Massive search for missing man begins
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 filming of students using "chew" at Carbon High School in 1997 led to a legal case that spilled over into 1998. The KTVX reporter and the camera man who filmed the session allegedly had given the students the tobacco to illustrate the situation. The county brought charges against the pair in late 1997 concerning the incident as four counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Originally five charges were dropped to four (because one of the students that they worked with was over 18) in January and a trial date for the television crew was set for April 1.
Another story that began in 1998 also made headlines in 1999 as well. In mid-January, Kenton David Goodwill was arrested for a second time on DUI in Carbon County. A former representative for the Utah State Attorney General's Office, Goodwill had been arrested in the fall of 1998 for the same thing when he was found in his car setting on railroad tracks which he had driven down apparently believing it was a road. In the January arrest. The second incident started when Goodwill was trying to contact a relative in Helper and went to the wrong house and pounded on the door of a Helper policeman. He was purportedly involved in holding his ex-wife hostage in Salt Lake County before he came to Carbon county and the police there were looking for him. At the time of his arrest weapons were found in his car in a parking lot, along with some drug paraphernalia.
Late January brought the arrest of two suspects in the City Market (now Fresh Market) armed robbery that had taken place in November of 1998. At the time a single masked gun man forced three employees to give him money at the courtesy counter in the store and then fled. Despite a search and police all over the county looking for the robber he was not found. However, in late January two suspects involved in the case were arrested in New Mexico. Based on reports the two were wanted in several robberies.
While complaints about Highway 6 and its unsafe conditions had gone of for years, 1998 was the year when organized activity to get things changed began. In 1997 the paper reported there had been 30 deaths recorded from vehicle accidents in the canyon alone. Ideas to make the canyon safer began to be put forward, including the ever-present idea to make the canyon a four lane highway all the way through the canyon from Spanish Fork to Price. Some suggested the way to pay for it would be to make it a toll road. Others worried that might make for less traffic and people not coming to Carbon and Emery County for tourism purposes.
A very wet year again brought concerns about flooding and also the landslide areas in Spanish Fork Canyon came under scrutiny once again. In April stream flows in some parts of the state were at 300 percent, but the wet month was downplayed by one weather official who said, "It's just April."
A local student at Carbon High School, Susie Morris, won high honors at the World Science Fair for her studies which showed that learning in older rats can be affected by the animals using a substitute sugar intake. The application of that information at the time was that people in their older years who take sugar substitutes could have their mental capacities affected. Morris won $8,000 from the Andrus Foundation for her efforts.
In October, boulders from the mountainside near the Peerless port of entry poured down on Highway 6. Twice during the same weekend two big rocks made their way down the mountain onto the roadway causing accidents. One was over 13 feet long and eight feet high, the other that came down the next day was almost the same size. While no one was injured a number of accidents were caused by the rocks which blocked at least part of the roadway.
The disappearance of Ryan Thayn of Wellington may have been the biggest story of 1998, in terms of exposure. The young man, a Seely Oil Company employee, came up missing on Nov. 5 while he was checking the company's gas wells near Mounds, just over the border of the Emery/Carbon county line. Thayn's truck was found abandoned at the scene. Jumper cables and two car batteries were lying on the ground near the vehicle. His coat, several knives and a wallet were found inside the truck. A large group of searchers began looking for the young man the next day. In the beginning the Emery County Sheriff's office approached the case as a possible homicide. In this case with it being so close to the county line, both county police agencies were involved in the investigation. Within a short period of time a $5,000 reward was offered for information leading to his whereabouts. For years after the case would pop up with possible leads and rumors of leads. It wasn't until June 6, 2008 that the case was settled when surveyors doing a biological study in the area around Mounds found Thayn's body wedged in a crevice.
After a study of the situation, authorities came to believe that he had most probably accidentally fallen into the crevice and couldn't get out. At the time it was revealed that that area had been searched extensively on horseback right after the disappearance, but that it was in a place that would have been hard to see and get into with a horse. The discovery of the body by the survey team was purely accidental.
At Thanksgiving time a fire broke out in the Willow Creek Mine in the Castle Gate area. All the workers in the mine were able to escape. The fire started behind the long wall machine that was being used to extract coal from the seam. The portals to the mine were sealed to cut off the oxygen to the fire. By the end of year the company was coming close to reclaiming the mine and reopening it for operations.