The worst fears of Silver Valley residents were realized Sunday morning when Hecla Mining company announced miner Larry Marek did not survive the ground fall.
Marek had just started his shift, more than 6,000 feet underground, when the tunnel he was working in collapsed on April 15.
On Saturday, rescue crews blasted their way into the stope where Marek was last seen working and were not able to find him. Crews presumed he was buried somewhere underneath a 70-foot long pile of floor- to- ceiling rubble.
Then on Sunday, there were signs workers had lost their race to save Marek's life--a battle waged almost entirely underground.
"Here at the Lucky Friday mine in northern Idaho we've been hoping for a miracle for more than a week, but have now informed Larry Marek's family we believe hope for his survival is gone," Hecla Mining CEO Phil Baker said.
Miners had hope last week after holes were drilled into the fallen stope showed small pockets of where the tunnel had not collapsed. However, when crews had finished blasting a 220-foot long drift to reach Marek they couldn't find him.
"It has been nine days since we had a fall of ground in the stope where Larry was working .We now believe that Larry was under the fall of ground when it occurred," said Baker.
Word of Marek's apparent death spread quickly throughout the Silver Valley.
Dale Robinson, a high school school classmate of Marek's, says the public doesn't appreciate the role the mining industry plays in our daily lives.
"There are a lot of hard working people in that valley that do things every day to get minerals and timber that we use everyday and take for granted. They risk their lives every day," Robinson said.
Local residents said it's a risk Marek and other members of his family had found acceptable for 30 years--a way of life for generations of men here in the Silver Valley.
Robinson added, "Larry was an excellent guy. He was a family man, he was a great sports person, hunter, fisherman. Just an all around wonderful gentleman."
Hecla officials said Marek's body was recovered early Sunday evening.