SoCal squad recovers body deep in Foresthill gold mine

By: Gus Thomson, Gold Country News Service
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A miner’s death 1,500 feet into a Foresthill-area gold mine spurred a body-recovery effort over the weekend by a team of Southern California underground rescue experts. Folsom’s Dean I. Brown, 55, was working deep in the St. George Mine off Yankee Jim’s Road on Friday and the mine’s owner was to have heard from him by phone when he planned to leave for the day around 6 p.m. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office was called in after the owner went to the mine when Brown failed to make the phone call and found him dead. Brown died of what authorities suspect were natural causes but the coroner’s office was working to determine a cause Monday. “It appears to be natural causes but we don’t know what yet,” Lt. Mark Reed said Monday. Brown had died 1,500 feet into the mine, which is a mostly horizontal dig 5½ feet tall and 5 feet wide. Placer County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue was initially called in to lead the effort to bring the body back. But Lt. Kevin Borden, of Search & Rescue, said a seven-member team of reserve officers and volunteers organized by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office were dispatched for work that required underground specialists. They’re certified by the state for the sometime-dangerous underground rescues. “They do about one or two mine rescues every year or so,” Borden said. “We don’t have an underground team and you have to be certified by the state and federal authorities.” With air-quality hazards underground, oxygen levels were monitored throughout the operation. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Martin said Monday that oxygen levels were above minimum safe levels in the shaft. Mine-rescue personnel were able to work without breathing apparatus throughout an operation that took two hours Sunday, he said. The crew arrived late Saturday after a 10-hour drive through holiday traffic from Los Angeles and started recovery work at the site on Sunday morning. Borden said Brown was not an employee at the mine but a friend of the owner who was allowed to go inside and look for gold.