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Northeastern District


Clifford Weigelt ID No. 30-00215-VXJ
Colarusso Quarry Co., A Division of A. Colarusso & Son, Inc.
Hudson, Columbia County, New York

August 16, 1995


Randall L. Gadway
Supervisory Mine Safety & Health Inspector

Gary Kettelkamp
Mine Safety & Health Inspector

William C. Jensen
Mine Safety & Health Inspector

Northeastern District
Mine Safety and Health Administration
230 Executive Drive, Suite 2
Cranberry Township, PA 16066-6415
James R. Petrie
District Manager


Jeffrey S. Reiner, dozer operator, age 31, was fatally injured at approximately 10:30 a.m. on August 16, 1995, when he was run over by the John Deere model 350 bulldozer he was operating at the time of the accident. He was skidding logs to prepare to strip overburden. Mr. Reiner's total experience as a bulldozer operator and as a log skidder was the 2 days which immediately preceded the accident.

The Colarusso Quarry Company, a limestone operation owned and operated by Colarusso Quarry Company, Division of A. Colarusso & Son, Inc., was located in Hudson, Columbia County, New York. The principal operating officials were Robert Colarusso, president, and Peter G. Colarusso, Jr., secretary and treasurer. A total of 22 persons was employed. The mine normally operated two 8-hour shifts a day, 6 days a week.

The victim was employed by Clifford Weigelt, a contractor located in Hudson, New York. The principal operating official was Clifford Weigelt, owner. The contractor was in the potting soil business and was in the process of stripping a bog area that contained rich compost soil. A work agreement existed between the contractor and mining company whereby the contractor would retain and sell the compost soil in lieu of receiving cash payment from the mining company for the stripping of the overburden. The victim was the only contract employee working on the property.

Crushed limestone was mined by multiple bench methods with bench heights of 40 feet. The benches were drilled and blasted by contractors and then loaded by a Dresser front-end loader into two Terex 35-ton haul trucks. The broken limestone was hauled to the 30-by 42-inch Telesmith jaw crusher where it was crushed and then stocked onto the surgepile. From beneath the surgepile, the material was conveyed to various secondary crushers and multiple screens for sizing. The material was stockpiled to be sold to customers in the construction industry.

The last regular inspection of this operation was conducted on August 6 and 7, 1995. The training provided to Mr. Reiner consisted of bulldozer operational instructions provided by the contractor 2 days prior to the accident.

Joseph Fairclough, senior vice president of operations, notified Michael J. Music, MSHA Supervisory Mine Inspector of the Albany, New York field office, of the accident at 3:00 p.m. on August 16, 1995. An investigation was started the next day, August 17, 1995.


Reiner was operating a John Deere model 350 bulldozer owned by the contractor. He was using it to skid logs to a log pile approximately 300 feet away. The dozer was provided with pontoon tracks for support in bog soil and rooter forks in the front to dig out roots in the earth. The ground area where the accident occurred, was on a 3 percent grade.

The dozer was inspected for mechanical defects during this investigation. The inspection showed that the neutral lock for the directional lever was frozen because of rust and the left pontoon track had several areas of missing track segments. The brakes, hydraulics, steering and shifting clutches, and engine were all in normal operating condition. At the time of the investigation, the reverser lever was in reverse and the dozer was in second gear while lodged on the log that the victim was skidding.


Mr. Reiner worked a flexible time schedule and his starting time on the day of the accident could not be established. He had been assigned to operate the John Deere model 350 dozer to skid logs to a log pile. Reportedly, around 10:00 a.m., he was skidding logs at the strip area when, at the same time, the mining company was preparing a shot in the quarry. David Persons, shop employee, was assigned the task of warning, evacuating and guarding the roadway when they blasted. At approximately 10:15 a.m., he told Reiner that they were going to shoot and that he (victim) would have to clear the area. Reiner immediately replied that he would skid this last log and drive his pick-up truck to the safe blasting area.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., Kenny March, dozer operator, shut off the bulldozer he was operating at the southern portion of the quarry because they were ready to blast. At this time, he heard the victim's dozer and looked towards it. He saw the dozer traveling in reverse with no operator in the seat and observed what looked like a rag going around the left track. The second time the rag came around the track, he observed arms dangling in the air. March immediately ran over to the site, approximately 300 feet away.

When March arrived, the dozer was lodged on the log with both tracks traversing fast in reverse. The victim was lying behind the left track and the dozer engine was at 3/4 throttle. March, a tall man, was able to reach over the rotating track, throttle down the dozer, and turn the key to the off position. He then ran 300 feet to where Persons was guarding the road for the impending blast. Persons immediately radioed superinten dent Colarusso who was guarding the main entrance road to the property. Colarusso called 911. The Greenport Rescue Squad, located less than 1/2 mile away, responded within 5 to 7 minutes.

Professional medical treatment was administered for approximately 20 minutes and then the victim was transported by ambulance to the Columbia Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The rescue squad leader, a registered nurse, stated that the victim showed no signs of life at the accident scene. He died of massive head injuries.


The direct cause of the accident could not be determined because no one witnessed the action which initiated the event. The investigation revealed that the most likely sequence of events was as follows: The victim shifted the directional lever to the neutral position and stopped the motion of the dozer. He then attempted to climb out of the operator's compartment. He slipped on the dozers left track simultaneously striking the directional lever and pushed it into the reverse position. At the time, the dozer's transmission was in second gear at 3/4 throttle which caused the dozer to reverse at a fast speed. Due to the speed of the track reversing, the victim could not regain his balance and was caught and carried away by the fast moving track.

Possible contributing factors were the nonfunctioning directional lever neutral lock, missing track segments, and the minimal training and experience of the victim in the task he was performing.


Order No. 4293826 was issued to the mine operator under the provisions of Section 103(k) on 8/17/95, to protect the health and safety of the employees and investigators.

On August 16, 1995, an accident which resulted in a fatality occurred at the northeast end of the quarry. An independent contractor was hauling logs and stripping overburden from the quarry top. This 103(k) order is issued to prevent further work in this area until the investigation releases or modifies the order. This order is to protect the safety of employees and other persons until the investigation is completed.

This order was abated on 8/24/95 as follows:

Order No. 4293826 is hereby terminated in that MSHA has released the site after completing the investigation of the fatal accident at the northeast top area of the quarry, the John Deere dozer and the immediate area around the bulldozer.

The John Deere bulldozer has been removed from the accident site for repairs and the inspection of the northeast top area at the quarry showed no existing hazards to personnel.

Citation No. 4296363 104(a) was issued to the contractor under the provisions of Section 104(a) on 8/23/95, for a violation of 30/CFR 56.14100(b).

Equipment defects affecting safety were not corrected in a timely manner on the John Deere 350 contract dozer used to skid logs. This dozer was involved in a fatal accident while stripping overburden. Sections of track segments were missing causing holes 16 inches by 18 inches in the track which could cause the dozer to catch ground objects whereby losing control of the dozer. Also, the missing segments could cause a person to trip and fall while mounting and dismounting the cab of the dozer. Also found on the dozer was a defect with the neutral lock consisting of a latch which was frozen in place by rust. This lock would be utilized to secure the machine from moving when mounting or dismounting the dozer when the engine is running. This latch was not functional at the time of the accident investigation.

This citation was abated on 8/24/95 as follows:

Citation No. 4296363 104(a) is hereby terminated in that the John Deere 350, Serial Number 061217, has been removed from the mine site for repairs to the tracks and neutral safety lock prior to being returned to the quarry.

Respectfully submitted by:

/s/ Randall L. Gadway
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ Gary R. Kettelkamp
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ William C. Jensen
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

James R. Petrie
District Manager
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95M24]