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Hundreds gather to honor miner who died in cave-in

AP News
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Posted: Apr 29, 2011 12:42 AM
Hundreds gather to honor miner who died in cave-in

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday to remember the Idaho silver miner who died in the Lucky Friday Mine cave-in, with mourners remembering him as an avid hunter and a person who others could rely on for help.

The Spokesman Review reports that hundreds of people were at the service and four generations of Larry "Pete" Marek's family filled the front rows of a high school gymnasium in Kellogg.

His family dressed in camouflage and Carhartts to pay tribute to the 53-year-old's passion for hunting.

"You are one of the best hunters, miners and friends ...I will miss you. I will miss your smile when I yell `Pardner!'" his brother Mike wrote in a tribute which was read during the service.

On April 15, Marek and his brother had just finished watering down blasted-out rock and ore at the mine near Mullan when part of the ceiling collapsed in a tunnel more than a mile underground. Mike Marek was able to escape unharmed.

Marek and his wife, Patricia, have four children and five grandchildren. The Kingston man is also survived by his father, four brothers and five sisters.

Marek worked as a miner in Idaho, Montana and Nevada, and also spent time as a logger. He had worked for Hecla Mining Co. for 12 years.

"Pete was courageous, as are all miners who go underground, risking their lives everyday," said Pastor Corey Berti, speaking at the Kellogg High School memorial service. "He was known for his strength and stability. He was the one that people went to because they knew they could count on him."

Berti, of the Silver Valley Worship Center, said Marek's nickname, "Pete," means rock _ something fitting for a man who provided assistance to others.

"He's one of the best miners in the district," said Dan McGillis, who also worked at Lucky Friday. "He'd do all of his work and half of mine."

Marek's body was recovered on Easter in the 6,150-foot deep tunnel. Officials say it appears he died during the initial cave-in.

Rescuers had worked around the clock for more than a week hoping that some part of the 75-foot section had not collapsed, perhaps allowing Marek to survive.

Crews first attempted to dig through the collapsed tunnel, but had to quit because of dangerous conditions. They dug a second intersecting tunnel, an effort that was slowed as they encountered increasingly difficult obstacles.

Mining at the Lucky Friday involves drilling holes in a rock face, blasting it to rubble, and then carting the debris to the surface to be processed into silver, lead and zinc. Miners often work more than a mile underground.

Despite the harsh conditions, this is the mine's first fatality since 1986.

The mine has been shut down since the cave-in, and Hecla did not say when it would resume production.

Federal regulators have launched an investigation into the cause of the cave-in. Hecla has said it will also investigate.

The mine employs about 275 workers, about 50 of whom were underground in various parts of the mine when the collapse occurred.

In a statement released Sunday, Hecla said "thoughts and prayers" were with Marek's family and friends.

"Words cannot express the deep sorrow we feel at the tragic loss of our friend, colleague and 30-year veteran of the mining industry," the company said.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com