PRICE — Dale Ray Black was so worried about his colleagues trapped in the Crandall Canyon Mine that he felt compelled to help with rescue operations — and gave his own life for it.

"He told his daughter he was basically running operations outside," which was untrue, said Dale Black's first cousin, LaMar Black, "because he didn't want his daughter to worry about him."

The family now takes consolation in the thought that Dale Black, who would have turned 49 on Friday, died doing what he loved.

"He was in danger, but that wasn't going to stop him getting the guys he knew," LaMar Black said.

Funeral services will be held in Huntington Canyon today, not far from where Dale Black died Thursday during an attempt to rescue miners Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez.

The six miners have been trapped 1,900 feet underground since Aug. 6.

Miner Brandon Kimber and mine safety inspector Gary Jensen also died Aug. 16 in the rescue attempt. Their funerals were also be held this week.

Dozens of Dale Black's family members and friends stood in a line that wrapped around Mitchell's Funeral Home in Price on Monday for the rescuer's viewing.

"You can look around and see he was a hero," said Wesley Thompson, who grew up in the Huntington house next door to Dale Black's.

On a table was a tribute to Dale Black — a bronze statue of a miner, two trophies from golf tournaments and three ball caps, including two emblazoned with "Genwal Coal Co." Genwal Resources operates the mine. It is owned by UtahAmerican Energy, which is owned by Murray Energy Corp.

And flowers. At least 20 bouquets and plant arrangements were counted, just in the waiting room of the funeral home.

Thompson remembers Dale Back hitting golf balls from the front of the house into hay fields across the street and paying him a small fee to retrieve them.

"He was a good dad; he was a family man," said family friend Samantha Hannert, who is friends with Dale Black's wife, Wendy.

The couple has two children and Hannert remembers how Dale Black loved taking the children camping.

Gillian Wandell remembers Dale Black riding all-terrain vehicles with her brother.

LaMar Black remembers Dale Black as a child with a dog named Ringo that was always at his side. Dale and the dog often wanted to follow older children into the hills. He said Dale Black always had a good attitude and was always joking.

"I've never seen him in a bad mood," LaMar Black said.

Dale Black began working in coal mining shortly after high school graduation. He advanced quickly, LaMar Black said. He became a supervisor.

"He had mining sense about him," he said. "He knew what was going on so they promoted him ... He had natural leadership. He's personable, was magnetic."

Murray Energy President Robert E. Murray — who had been conspicuously absent from press conferences in the days following the death of the three rescue workers — attended the viewing.

The families of the six trapped miners continue to press mine owners in an attempt to change an apparent decision to discontinue rescue efforts.

"Mr. Murray promised the families he would get the miners out dead or alive," said Sonny Olsen, a Price attorney who acts as spokesman for the families. "And they want him to keep that promise."

Olsen said Murray visited with the families Monday. Murray told them it was almost impossible for the miners to be alive and he could not promise to recover them.

Murray told the families, Olsen said, that another borehole — the fifth — would be drilled into the mountain in an effort to detect signs of the men but that mine officials would not resume a full-scale rescue unless they find compelling reasons.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com