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Two significant safety statistics improved in 2017 but rural Nevada was still strongly impacted by accidental deaths.

The Mining Safety and Health Administration reported that the number of deaths in the mining industry dropped to a record low in the non-coal sector, which includes Nevada’s metal and nonmetal mines.

We also learned that the number of highway deaths in Nevada dropped 7.5 percent from the prior year.

The numbers are a positive trend but also a stark reminder of the hazards that miners face every workday and all of us face traveling on highways.

The mining statistic was tempered by the fact that coal-mining deaths increased in the past year. That pushed the overall mining trend to an increase, following two years of decreases. But still, the nation’s metal and nonmetal mines were safer than ever.

Unfortunately, Nevada stood out as the only state with multiple non-coal mining deaths on the job in 2017. Two people were killed and seven injured on Halloween when a 340-ton haul truck ran over a passenger van at Marigold Mine in Valmy.

Safety superintendent Pete Kuhn and equipment operator Omar Bernal died from their injuries. MSHA is still in the process of compiling a report on the fatal crash.

Single deaths were reported in 11 other states, for a total of 13 in the non-coal mining industry.

“Every number, no matter how small, represents a person and their family – as an industry, we don’t forget the loss of our colleagues,” the Nevada Mining Association stated.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Departments of Transportation and Public Safety reported that fatal crashes on Nevada roadways dropped from 330 to 305 in 2017.

On the down side, the number of accidents in which pedestrians were killed jumped 25 percent, to a total of 100 in 2017. And bicyclist deaths increased 50 percent to a total of nine.

The state’s fatalities included at least four here in Elko County, according to Elko Daily Free Press records. Three of those occurred on deadly U.S. Highway 93.

A Spring Creek man was killed in January when he attempted to pass multiple vehicles on U.S. 93 about 28 miles south of Wells. Bryan Nichols, 54, was driving an SUV that collided with a semi rig.

In July, a Texas man was killed in a single-vehicle rollover on a county road near Deeth. Edward J. Hotko, 53, of Granbury was partially ejected in the crash.

An August crash on U.S. 93 left the driver of a pickup truck dead and injured the driver of a semi truck when the two collided head-on about 16 miles north of Wells. Andria Perez of Twin Falls died at the scene after her pickup crossed the center line.

And in September, another Twin Falls woman died when her Mercedes Benz hit a semi head-on while she was trying to pass a vehicle on U.S. 93.

“Every death on Nevada roads is a tragedy, and a loved one who will not be coming home,” Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon said.

Whether it is on the road or in the workplace, safety needs to be the primary concern whenever we get behind the wheel.

We look forward to further improvements in both mine safety and on dangerous highways like U.S. 93, where few can travel without witnessing an unsafe passing situation.

Let’s be mindful of others and do our part to reduce or eliminate the number of such accidents in 2018.


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