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Cave-in kills Tucson man digging for minerals

BENSON, Ariz. -- A 56-year-old Tucson man was killed when the side of a wash caved in while he and a friend were looking for rocks and minerals.

Responders found William T. Lawrence buried Wednesday under several feet of rocks, dirt and debris in a remote area near Benson, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office said.

The friend, Barbara Muntyan of Tucson, walked miles to reach help and told authorities Lawrence had been digging in the wall of the wash when she heard a noise, according to the sheriff's office.

Muntyan told authorities she then found a large pile of rocks and debris where Lawrence had been digging.

``The sides of the wash were about 10 feet high, and one entire side had caved in on him,'' said sheriff's Sgt. John Filippelli. ``He was buried under mounds of rock; one the size of a small car.''

Lawrence had the only cellphone and set of keys for their vehicle, so Muntyan had to hike five miles from the site to flag down a passing motorist for help, Filippelli told the Sierra Vista Herald.

Because of the time it took Muntyan to reach help, responders didn't arrive at the site until about two hours after the cave-in, Filippelli said.

It then took the responders about two hours to uncover Lawrence. They initially used shovels until road department staff brought a backhoe.

Sheriff's Deputy Timothy Palermo said he was shocked by the size and number of rocks that buried Lawrence.

``When you see something like this, you always hope the person can survive the accident, but in the back of my mind, I thought it looked pretty hopeless,'' he said.

An autopsy will be conducted, and the sheriff's office is investigating.

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