Wilbur D. Nelson rescued Merley C. Fairless from an explosion, Oracle, Arizona, August 14, 1962. Fairless, 40, copper miner, and Nelson, 48, copper miner, were working in an open trench eight feet wide and ten feet deep. It extended 40 feet into the side of a mountain to a vertical rock wall where copper ore was being mined by blasting. As Fairless was lighting the last two of 12 fuses attached to 96 sticks of dynamite in the rock wall, one charge of six sticks exploded prematurely Fairless caught the full force of the explosion, was blinded, and suffered extensive injuries and burns. Nelson, who had just started to leave the trench, was severely injured in the back by stone splinters. He was knocked forward and rolled down the sloping bottom of the trench onto a rock shelf outside. Badly dazed and bleeding profusely, he shouted for aid from crewmen working some distance away and then heard Fairless call feebly for help. Nelson knew that the other charges of dynamite would begin exploding in sequence in less than six minutes and sooner if any of them also went off prematurely. In great pain and barely able to stand, he made his way as fast as he could 68 feet to alongside Fairless, who lay in the trench within two feet of the wall containing the dynamite. Nelson grasped Fairless by the belt, hoisted him onto his shoulder, and then staggered from the trench. He turned and started along the shelf toward a truck 20 feet away. The other dynamite charges then exploded, filling the trench with rock debris to within 15 feet of its opening. None of the debris struck Fairless or Nelson, who lost consciousness alongside the truck. The other crew removed both men to a hospital, where Fairless died 32 hours later. Nelson was disabled for five weeks but recovered.
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