Skip to content

Western District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health


Smoky Valley Common Operation [ID. NO. 26-00594]
Round Mountain Gold Corporation
Christensen Boyles Corporation, H60
Round Mountain, Nye, Nevada

May 12, 1995


Michael J. Drussel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Bobby R. Caples
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Western District Office
3333 Vaca Valley Parkway, Suite 600
Vacaville, California 95688
Fred M. Hansen, District Manager


Joseph Sanders, an 18 year old water truck driver, was fatally injured May 12, 1995, at approximately 1:45 P.M., when the truck he was operating rolled over. Sanders had three weeks of mining experience, all at this operation.

Larry L. Weberg, supervisor of the MSHA Boulder City Nevada Field Office, was notified of the accident by David W. Wilbanks, Round Mountain Gold Corporation's manager of safety, training, and security, at 2:00 p.m., May 12. An investigation was started the following day.

Smoky Valley Common Operation, located 54 miles north of Tonopah, Nye County, Nevada, was a surface gold mine owned and operated by Round Mountain Gold Corporation. The mine had 400 employees.

At this operation, gold ore was mined by open pit, multiple bench method. The ore was crushed to size and hauled to a cyanide leach pad, on the mine property, for processing.

Christensen Boyles Corporation was contracted to do exploration drilling in the pit. They had 21 employees working one of two ten-hour shifts, five days a week.

Principal operating officials for Christensen Boyles Corporation were:

Edwin Hansen, Operation Manager
Charles Booker, Safety Manager

Christensen Boyles Corporation had an MSHA Training Plan approved in the Rocky Mountain District March 30, 1979. Appropriate training, however, had not been provided the victim.

The last regular inspection at this operation was completed May 2, 1995.


The vehicle involved in the accident was a 1976 Ford, model B350, water truck owned and operated by Christensen Boyles Corporation, a drilling contractor at the mine site. The truck, VIN number H91TVB37489 and company designated as "4147," had an eight cylinder diesel engine and a ten speed, Fuller Road Ranger, Model RT-910 manual transmission. It was equipped with tandem rear axles with dual wheels. The tires had one half to three quarters of their tread life remaining. The braking system was air over hydraulic, with a retarder "jake" brake included in the system. The truck was originally a drilling truck with a gross vehicle rating of 52,000 pounds. About 10 years ago it was modified and equipped with a water tank.

The oval water tank was constructed of 1/4 inch steel. It was five feet five inches high, seven feet two inches wide, and fifteen feet five inches long with eight compartments to control water movement. These compartments were separated by 1/4 inch steel baffle plates. The tank contained approximately 3560 gallons (29,654 pounds) of water which raised the gross weight of the vehicle to about 52,800 pounds, slightly more than the original gross vehicle rating. Empty, the truck weighed 23,140 pounds.

During the investigation it was found that the truck had an inoperable low-air warning signal, the automatic electric anti-skid braking system was disconnected, and the manually operated engine stop-switch cable was attached to a control on the dash labeled "engine throttle." Also, motor mounts on both sides of the engine showed signs of wear, the transmission was missing a snap ring, and the input/output shaft gears were near failure due to excessive wear. The last two conditions listed could cause the transmission to jump out of gear when the truck was operated in fifth gear or higher. Finally, the clutch yoke was dislodged from the bearing support brackets, with each bracket bent in opposite directions. It is not known if this latter condition was a result of the accident.

During interviews, it was learned that truck operators had been taught to hold the shifting lever to prevent the transmission from jumping out of gear. Following the accident, the transmission was found to be in ninth gear, with the high/low range controller in the low range position.

The service brake system was thoroughly inspected and tested following the accident and found to be functioning effectively. The brake drums, shoes, and pads showed no signs of excessive wear. The brake inspection was completed by a Nevada State Highway Patrol Officer.

The north truck ramp into the mine pit was 4460 feet in length, with an average width of 100 feet. Overall, the average grade was 8.43%, with a 180 degree, 300 foot radius (approximate) turn half way down the ramp. The elevation at the top of the ramp was 6212 feet and the bottom elevation was 5590 feet. The accident occurred at the turnout for the 5835 level ramp. The drilling location was at the 5800 level.

When drilling, it was necessary to transport water to the drill site at least twice a shift. The water fill-stand was located outside the pit, one-half mile from the top of the north ramp. Depending on traffic conditions and accessibility to the fill- stand, it took 20 to 30 minutes to complete the round trip between it and the drill site.

The north ramp was used primarily by trucks hauling ore from the pit to stockpiles located outside the pit. It was also used by service trucks and maintenance vehicles. The ramp was properly bermed on the outer banks and was fairly smooth and level along its entire length. Water had been applied to the ramp about 10 minutes before the accident but it had dried and was not a factor.

Traffic at the mine site was left-hand only.

The weather was partly cloudy with a light wind and temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees.

The drilling crew normally consisted of three Christensen Boyles Corporation employees; a driller, a driller's helper, and a water hauler. Two Round Mountain Gold Corporation employees were also assigned to the drill site to collect samples. On the day of the accident the drill crew had one additional contractor employee present, Joseph Sanders.


Joseph Sanders, water truck driver, began work at 5:30 A.M., his regular starting time. Bob Millard, drill foreman, assigned Sanders to drill rig No. 5685. He was to help on the rig and haul water when needed.

At the beginning of the shift the drill crew checked, cleaned, and started the drill. Upon arrival of the mining company samplers, they started their drilling operations. At about 9:00 a.m., Henry McCoy, another water hauler, took truck no. 4147 to get a load of water. He returned, without incident, about 30 minutes later. At about 1:15 p.m. Sanders took the same truck and went for a load of water.

Larry Bellows, haul truck operator, was coming up the north ramp when he observed the truck being operated by Sanders coming down the ramp, around the 180 degree turn, at a high rate of speed and sliding sideways. He was also able to observe the truck in his rear view mirrow and saw Sanders regain control and continue down the ramp.

Stan Mendenhall, a haul truck operator, was coming down the north ramp when he saw Sanders' truck on its side at the intersection of the north ramp and the 5765 level. Mendenhall called Norm Lear, pit foreman, by radio and told him of the accident. Lear was in the pit near the accident scene and immediately proceeded to the site. When he arrived, he saw that the tank had separated from the truck, the engine was running, and the rear wheels were turning.

He did not see Sanders at that time. Lear went over to the truck and choked off the air intake, shutting down the engine. He then checked around the truck and saw Sanders arm between the cab and the ground. About that time Randy Harris and Craig Barber, safety/security department employees, arrived. Harris checked Sander's for vital signs. He was unable to detect a pulse or breathing. The mine ambulance and rescue squad arrived and attempted to extricate Sanders from the truck. He could not be removed until the truck was rolled back on its wheels and the seat belt cut. Prior to Sander's removal, Steve Burke, Nye County Deputy Sheriff/Deputy Coroner, arrived and pronounced him dead. Sanders body was taken to Hawthorne Mortuary, Hawthorne, Nevada, and later transferred to Las Vegas, Nevada, where an autopsy was performed. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to "mechanical body compression."


The accident occurred when the operator lost control of the vehicle. Several factors may have contributed to this event: The operator had very little experience in the job and had not been properly trained for the task he was performing, the vehicle was being operated too fast for conditions, the transmission was worn to the point that it may have jumped out of gear, the warning alarm for low air pressure was inoperable, and the engine shut-down cable was not identified.


The following citations and orders were issued during the investigation:

Order # 4357867, 103(k), Issued May 13, 1995, to Round Mountain Gold Corporation. Issued to secure the site of a fatal accident until MSHA had an opportunity to investigate.

Citation # 4140321, 104(d)1, 30CFR, Part 48.27(a). Issued May 13, 1995, to Christensen Boyles Corporation.

Joseph Sanders did not receive proper task training in the operation of the 1976 Ford water truck that he was operating May 12, 1995. The truck went out of control and overturned while descending the mine haul road and Sanders was fatally injured.

Citation # 4140324, 104(a), 30CFR, Part 48.29. Issued May 13, 1995, to Christensen Boyles Corporation.

Task training records were not being completed on a 5000-23 MSHA certificate of training form or an MSHA approved training alternate form.

Order # 4140325, 104(d)1, 30CFR, Part 56.14132(a). Issued May 13, 1995, to Christensen Boyles Corporation.

The automatic low air warning device located inside the operator's cab of the 1976 Ford water truck was not operable. The truck was involved in a fatal accident on May 12, 1995.

Order # 4140326, 104(d)1, 30CFR, Part 56.14100(a). Issued May 13, 1995, to Christensen Boyles Corporation.

The water truck was not being fully inspected prior to being operated. The truck was involved in a fatal accident on May 12, 1995, and had defects consisting of the following:

  1. The electrical circuit for the brakes anti-skid system was disconnected.

  2. The low air alarm located in the operator's cab was not operable.

  3. The manual emergency engine stop (kill) switch control cable was attached to the dash mounted engine throttle control.

Citation # 4140327, 104(a), 30CFR, Part 56.14100(b). Issued May 13, 1995, to Christensen Boyles Corporation.

The water truck had equipment defects that affected its safe operation. These defects were not corrected in a timely manner prior to operating the unit. The truck was involved in a fatal accident on May 12, 1995.

Order # 4140328, 104(d)1, 30CFR, Part 56.14205. Issued May 13, 1995, to Christensen Boyles Corporation.

The water truck was used beyond the manufacturer's designated capacity. The truck, loaded with water, was involved in a fatal accident on May 12, 1995.

Respectively submitted:

/s/ Michael J. Drussel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ Bobby R. Caples
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Fred M. Hansen,
Western District Manager
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95M16]

spacerDisclaimerPrivacy StatementSearch SiteGo to Home Page