Skip to content

Southeastern District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine
Fatal Fall of Person Accident

Mine I.D. No. 09-00766
Veribest Quarry
Georgia Carolina Quarries, Incorporated
Vesta, Oglethorpe County, Georgia

Date of Injury: August 3, 1995

Date of Death: October 27, 1995


D. L. Collier
Mine Safety and Health Inspector


R. J. Grabner
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 212
Birmingham, Alabama 35209

Martin Rosta
District Manager


Johnnie Blackwell, ledgeman, age 59, was seriously injured at about 7:30 a.m. on August 3, 1995, when he fell approximately 35 feet when a rock being hoisted, fell, striking the ladder beside which the victim was standing. The victim died on October 27, 1995, from injuries received in the fall. The victim had a total of 20 years mining experience, the last 4 years as a ledgeman at this operation. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.

The MSHA office in Macon, Georgia, learned of the accident by receipt of MSHA Form 7000-1, dated August 3, 1995, and was notified of the subsequent death when an amended 7000-1 was received by the Injury and Information Systems Branch in Denver, Colorado, on November 29, 1995. Initially, the cause of death was believed to be attributed to a pre-existing coronary condition not related to the injuries Blackwell sustained in the fall. However, after reviewing the autopsy report and consultation with the pathologist who prepared the report, it was determined that his death resulted from the mine accident. An investigation was started on July 16, 1996.

The Veribest Quarry, a dimension stone operation, owned and operated by Georgia-Carolina Quarries, Incorporated, was located about 1 mile off County Road 207, Vesta, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The principal operating official was Bobby Stevens, president. The mine was normally operated one 8-hour shift a day, 5 days a week. A total of 5 persons was employed.

Large blocks of granite were freed from the deposit by cutting channels along vertical sides with an automatic oxygen burner and by drilling and blasting horizontal holes along the base. The blocks were subdivided by drilling holes and then driving wedges into the holes until the block would split. This type of extraction created a stairstep configuration known as ledges which were approximately 30-35 feet high. The subdivided blocks were hoisted from the quarry by a mobile crane and transported to the mill by truck where they were sawed into slabs, sized and polished. The final product was primarily used for monuments.

The last regular inspection of this mine was completed on February 21, 1996.


The ledge where the accident occurred was level and approximately 26 feet wide by 30 feet long. A 40-foot steel ladder placed on the ledge below extended 6 feet above the ledge where the victim was standing and slid about 2 feet toward the victim when the rock struck it.

A 3900 Manitowoc, 90 ton, mobile crane with a 90 foot lattice boom, driven by a 220-horsepower Cummins diesel engine was being used to hoist waste rock from the quarry. The crane was positioned on the top of the east quarry wall about 70 feet above the ledge where the victim was standing.

The rock being hoisted was of irregular shape and weighed between 500 and 700 pounds. A 1-1/4 inch hole had been drilled through the edge of the rock. A 5-foot long, 1/4-inch chain with a hook was inserted through the hole, and looped over the hoist dogs which were attached to the pulley block of the crane. The hoist dogs were hooks constructed of 2-inch thick steel with an 8-inch throat opening.


On the day of the accident, Johnnie Blackwell, (victim) reported for work at 6:30 a.m. his regular starting time. He, along with his coworkers, Willie Joe Callaway and Dennis Smith, ledgemen, were cleaning waste rock off a quarry ledge. At about 7:30 a.m., Callaway and Smith went to the ledge above to assist in removing a large rock while Blackwell stayed on the ledge below and waited for them to return. Callaway and Smith attached the rock to the crane in preparation of lifting. The crane operator swung the load past the ladder and when Callaway thought the load had cleared, he signaled the flagman to boom up. As the boom was being raised, the load became positioned over the ladder. For some unknown reason, the chain separated from the hooks, causing the rock to fall. Callaway and Smith yelled to Blackwell and at the same time the rock struck the ladder. Apparently Blackwell was leaning against the ladder which slid and pushed him off the ledge, causing him to fall approximately 35 feet to the quarry floor. Callaway and Smith went to aid the victim who remained conscious during the rescue. The Oglethorpe County Emergency Medical Services was called and Blackwell was transported to the Athens Regional Hospital. Blackwell was admitted to the hospital where he was treated for injuries sustained in the fall, including subsequent amputation of both legs. He was later released.

On October 27, 1995, Blackwell reported to the emergency room at Wills Memorial Hospital in Washington, Georgia, where he was diagnosed with chest pains, an infected leg stump and bacterial endocarditis. He died the same day of cardiac arrest.


The accident was caused by the failure to ensure all employees were in a safe location when material was being hoisted.


Citation No. 4529373

Issued on August 14, 1996, under provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of Standard 56.16009:

An accident occurred at this operation on August 3, 1995, which resulted in the death of an employee on October 27, 1995. The employee was standing on a ledge beside a ladder when a rock, which was being hoisted, fell, struck the ladder, and pushed the employee off the ledge. Proper precautions were not taken to clear personnel from the vicinity of the suspended load.

This citation was terminated on August 16, 1996. Procedures for clearing the area prior to hoisting were discussed.

/s/ D. L. Collier
D. L. Collier
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ R. J. Grabner
R. J. Grabner
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Martin Rosta
District Manager
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95M52]