|A solitary woman prays at the Mission San Rafael Church in Emery County. She showed up before the mass that was conducted for the six trapped miners in the Crandall Canyon mine. Ernie Lopez has been assisting church, government and company officials in communicating with the Spanish speaking population involved in the tragedy in Emery County.|
Spanish is the primary language of three of the six miners trapped at the Crandall Canyon mine.
Therefore, community, government and company official needed an interpreter from the onset of the Aug. 6 coal mining accident at Crandall Canyon.
Huntington resident Ernie Lopez has been providing services as an interpreter for more than four years within the Emery County community.
From the first press conference scheduled about Crandall Canyon, the 23-year veteran of Castle Valley coal mines has seen to the linguistic needs involved in the incident.
"I was called in immediately," stated Lopez during a telephone interview Monday. "But this situation is not about me - it is about the six miners trapped in Crandall Canyon and their families. This is about a community coming together to help one another in a time of need."
Lopez reported that during the tragedy he has been providing linguistic services to the families of some of the trapped miners as well as the Spanish speaking media and the Mexican consulate in Salt Lake City.
"I have been given access and a direct connection to the officials closest to the rescue effort and, because of that , I have been able to provide the families with the most up-to-date information available," commented Lopez.
Lopez has firsthand knowledge about the dangers that are inherent within the coal industry. He spent a good deal of his mining career working at the Independent Coal Company in Castle Gate.
|Women watch some children while the Mass for the miners that are trapped in the Crandall Canyon mine was being held at the Mission of the San Rafael Church. The church offers many kinds of services to immigrant families and has helped them a great deal during many kinds of crisis, including the present one.|
Lopez retired from the coal industry due to an injury incurred in the mine and after being diagnosed with black lung. He became a member of the United Mine Workers of America in 1950 and has been with the labor organization for the past 57 years.
"I have been an advocate for immigrants of Spanish decent for as long as I can remember. So when this situation came along, I just decided I would help where I could," explained Lopez.
Lopez has also been aiding Pastor Donald Hope who over sees services at Notre Dame in Price, the Good Shepard Church in East Carbon, St. Michael's in Helper and the Mission of the San Rafael Church in Emery County. According to Lopez three of the trapped miners and their families are strong patrons of the Mission of the San Rafael Church community and in turn the church has put their full support behind them.
"Father Hope has nearly ran himself into the ground doing all he can to aid the families and the community during this very difficult time," commented Lopez. "He has given a lot of hope to everyone involved in a very tense situation."
Lopez went on to comment that even though the families of the trapped miners have a great deal of support from all those in the community their hope and resilience becomes more strained each passing day with no contact.
"The families are really hanging on to hope but it is diminishing because of the time lapse since the collapse occurred. It gets more difficult for them with every passing day it seems," explained Lopez.
Father Hope and the Mission of the San Rafael Church have set up a fund for the families of the trapped miners and anyone wishing to donate can contact the church for further information.