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District 9



Deserado Mine (ID NO. 05-03505)
Blue Mountain Energy, Inc.
Rangely, Rio Blanco County, Colorado

October 29, 1996

William E. Vetter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Michael D.McGuire
Mining Engineer, Denver Safety Health and Technology Center

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
Coal Mine Safety and Health, District 9
P. O. Box 25367, Denver Colorado 80225-0367
John Kuzar, District Manager


On Tuesday, October 29, 1996, at approximately 12:45 p.m., a fatal powered haulage accident occurred on the surface haul road at the belt conveyor overpass (CNV-2). Ted E. Munford, surface mechanic, was fatally injured when the raised bed of the Euclid Model 302LD haul truck that he was driving struck the CNV-2 overpass. Munford was returning to the preparation plant with the truck bed in the raised position after dumping a load of refuse material at the refuse pit. The truck bed struck the overpass, which was approximately 1.6 miles from the refuse pit, causing the truck to overturn and fatally injure Munford. The accident was caused by failure to lower the truck bed after dumping refuse material at the pit.


Blue Mountain Energy, Inc. (Blue Mountain) operated the Deserado Mine located northeast of Rangely, Rio Blanco County, Colorado. Blue Mountain assumed operation of the mine from Western Fuels-Utah, Inc. effective October 16, 1996. Blue Mountain was a subsidiary of Deseret Generation & Transmission Co-Operative, located in Sandy, Utah.

Approximately 4,791 tons of coal was produced daily from the "D" seam, which was 8.5 feet thick. The underground mine produced 769,000 tons of coal in 1995. In January 1996, a mine fire occurred on the active longwall section that caused the longwall and two development sections to be sealed. This mining equipment was later abandoned. Since the fire, coal has been produced from two to three continuous mining machine sections with two sections developing new longwall panels and a third developing a pillar mining section.

Coal is processed at the mine's preparation plant, conveyed by an overland conveyor system to a railroad loadout facility, and transported to a Utah power plant. The mine operates four days a week, ten hours per shift, producing coal on two shifts with the remaining time available for maintenance. Coal preparation was scheduled only on the day shift, beginning at 6:00 a.m. Refuse material from the preparation plant is hauled to the No. 4 refuse pit, MSHA ID 1211-CO-9-0035. Normally two end-dump haul trucks transported the refuse material over the dedicated haul road to the pit. The No. 4 pit was 3.7 miles northeast of the preparation plant.

The January 1996 mine fire resulted in a production stoppage. To maintain an adequate supply of coal for the power plant, the company purchased coal from another mine and trucks operated by Hyland Enterprises, Inc., delivered it to the railroad loadout facility.

A Mine Safety and Health Administration regular safety and health inspection was being conducted at the time of the accident. Spot inspections according to Section 103(i) of Mine Act were conducted every ten working days due to methane gas liberation at the mine. During the 3rd quarter of 1996, the mine liberated an average of 321,300 cubic feet of methane per day.

The principal officers at the mine were:
Alan J. Hillard......................Mine Manager
Jeffery Dubbert....................Director of Engineering and Safety


On Tuesday, October 29, 1996, the day shift preparation plant and surface employees began their shift at 6:00 a.m. After a brief safety meeting, Harold Putney, surface area foreman, assigned work duties to his crew. A snowstorm had moved through the area the night before leaving approximately three inches of snow on the haul roads. Bruce Petersen, equipment operator, was assigned to remove the snow from the roads with the motor grader. Jeff Polley, mechanic, was to assist with snow removal after he and Dave Sharp, mechanic, attached a snow plow to a Ford dump truck. Ted Munford, surface mechanic and victim, was assigned to travel the overland belt conveyor system to make methane examinations and set the controls at the belt conveyor drives in preparation for running coal.

The haul roads were cleared of snow by approximately 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Polley and Munford then started hauling refuse material from the plant to the refuse pit with 50-ton end-dump Euclid Model 302LD haul trucks. Putney checked with Polley and Munford early in the shift and was told that the trucks were able to travel the roads without difficulty, although the pit area was "slick and messy" and the haul road was "a little sloppy."

At approximately 12:45 p.m., William Shimmin, a Hyland Enterprises, Inc., truck driver, approached the intersection of the service and haul roads. This intersection was adjacent to the CNV-2 belt conveyor overpass. As he brought his truck to a stop, he noticed a "green Deserado mine haul truck" laying on its side in the haul road west of the intersection. He drove to the other side of the intersection, parked his truck, and ran back to the overturned truck. He noticed that the right front wheel was slowly turning. Shimmin found Munford partially thrown through the windshield opening of the heavily damaged cab. Shimmin checked for a pulse and found none. Shimmin returned to his truck to call for help on his CB radio. At that time Dave Jordan, a second Hyland truck driver, arrived at the scene. Shimmin informed Jordan of his findings, and both men ran to the cab. Jordan, who was a certified Emergency Medical Technician, checked for a pulse, found none, and sent Shimmin to the nearby conveyor Transfer Station-1 to find a phone and call Deserado personnel. In the meantime, Jordan found a portable radio that Munford had been carrying and contacted Pat Franz, the mine operations monitor. Franz summoned the Rangely Ambulance Service and the Rangely Rural Fire Department.

Putney and Petersen, working at conveyor Transfer Station-2, overheard the call for help on the radio and drove to the accident scene. Upon arrival, Putney decided the bulldozer at No. 4 refuse pit was needed to free Munford and directed Petersen to bring the dozer to the site. Petersen arrived with the dozer at the same time as the ambulance and fire department. Munford was freed from the haul truck cab, and a heart monitor was connected but showed no pulse. Munford was pronounced dead at the scene by the Rio Blanco County Coroner.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence of the accident:
  1. The haul truck involved in the accident was a 50-ton rear dump Model 302 LD Euclid, Serial No. 73188. The height of the truck bed in the raised position was 28 feet, 5.9 inches. It was equipped with Goodyear 24.00 R35, RL-3+, type 4S tires.

  2. The CNV-2 belt conveyor overpass was a 135-foot long arched steel structure that supported the overland conveyor belt system. It diagonally spanned the haul road west of its intersection with the service road. The maximum clearance height from the surface of the road to the crossover structure was 25 feet, 7.5 inches. The minimum clearances at the south and north sides of the structure were 22 feet, 9.5 inches and 22 feet, 10.5 inches, respectively. Signs posted on both sides of the structure conservatively indicated a 20-foot clearance.

  3. A 30 mph speed limit sign and a warning sign "Lower truck bed-overhead conveyor belt ahead" were located along the haul road between the No.4 pit and conveyor overpass. They were clearly visible to anyone returning to the preparation plant.

  4. The haul road was approximately 42 feet wide at the intersection. Damage to the overhead structure indicated the raised truck bed first contacted the structure approximately 41 feet from the north bent structure and maintained contact for a distance of approximately 56 feet along the span.

  5. The haul road was well constructed and maintained by the mine operator.

  6. Weather conditions were clear at the beginning of the day and became partly cloudy by midday.

  7. Munford was returning from the refuse pit after unloading his eighth load of refuse material.

  8. At the time of the accident, the haul truck was traveling southwest on the haul road up a 3.5 percent grade.

  9. The haul truck gear selector was observed in the highest position, sixth gear, which would have allowed the truck to travel at a speed up to 33 mph.

  10. The truck bed was in the full raised position when the truck came to rest on its left side after the accident.

  11. During recovery of the victim, the steering wheel was removed by shearing the metal spokes; the operator's seat was disconnected from its mounting brackets; the right front corner and doorpost members were cut and removed; and the right front corner of the cab was pulled out away from the instrument panel.

  12. The truck was equipped with a "bed down" indicator which would have been clearly visible through the right vent cab window. Through observation of another truck, when the bed was down, the cab was noticeably darker and the right edge of the rock guard and right front corner of the body were clearly visible through the right door window.

  13. The body (bed) hydraulic control lever was located between the cab door and the operator's seat on the left side of the cab. The hydraulic control valve was found to be in the "bed lower" position prior to the truck being uprighted. After the truck was uprighted, the lever was operable and moved the body (bed) hydraulic control valve spool through the "lower, float, hold, and raise" positions. The hydraulic control valve and the bed hydraulic control (hoist) lever and cable were intact and operable through all of the positions. A malfunction of the hoist control valve would not result in the bed being raised inadvertently.

  14. Written company job procedures, "SAFE JOB PROCEDURES-HEAVY HAUL TRUCKS," used for task training purposes, stated twice "At no time are you allowed to travel with the dump bed in the raised position." This written procedure had provisions for the person being trained and instructor to sign and verify that the training was received. No records were available to indicate that Munford had read or signed this safe job procedure.

  15. Munford's job title was surface mechanic. Driving the haul truck was included as part of his job duties. He had been driving the haul trucks periodically for approximately three months.

  16. Records could not be found on file at the mine to document Munford's task training on the haul truck. Interviews with management and miners indicated that Munford had been properly task trained on the Euclid haul truck according to 30 CFR 48. A violation 30 CFR 48.29 was issued for failure of the operator to record and certify this training. This violation was not considered as contributing to the cause of the accident.

  17. A functional seat belt was provided and appeared to be in good condition. Statements made by persons involved in removing the victim from the truck indicated that the seat belt was not worn by the victim at the time of the accident.

  18. Following the January 1996 mine fire an adequate supply of coal for the power plant was purchased from another mine and delivered to the railroad loadout facility by trucks operated by Hyland Enterprises, Inc. The coal was hauled on a service road which paralleled the belt conveyor on the east side from County Road (CR) 65. The trucks returned along the service road to the intersection with the refuse haul road at the east side of the CNV-2 overpass. At that intersection the trucks turned southwest on the refuse haul road and followed it back to CR 65.

  19. A similar nonfatal accident occurred at the CNV-2 overpass with the same Euclid haul truck on March 20, 1987. Following this accident, warning signs were placed along the haul road to warn of the approaching overpass. These signs were located an adequate distance away on both sides of the overpass. Also, "20-foot clearance" signs were attached to both sides of the overpass.

  20. After the October 29, 1996 accident, devices were installed on the end-dump haul trucks that give an audible and visual warning in the cab when the dump bed is in the raised position. All drivers were retrained on this new device and on the safety procedure of not traveling with the bed raised.

  21. After the October 29, 1996 accident, a mechanical "bed-up" warning system was installed over the haul road on both approaches to the overpass. It consisted of chains hanging from a wire rope stretched across the haul road.


The accident occurred due to failure to lower the truck bed after dumping the load of refuse material at the refuse pit. The severity of Munford's injuries may have been reduced had the seat belt provided in the cab been worn.


  1. A 103(k) Order, No. 3559820, was issued on October 29, 1996, to ensure the safety of all persons traveling or working on the haul road until an investigation could be conducted.

  2. A 104(a) Citation, No. 3560983, was issued on November 6, 1996, because the truck bed of the 50-ton Euclid end-dump haul truck, Model 302 LD, Serial No. 73188, was not secured in the travel position while the truck was moving between work areas, a violation of 30 CFR 77.1607(s).

Respectfully submitted by:

William E. Vetter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Michael D. McGuire
Mining Engineer
Denver Safety and Technology Center

Approved by:

Archie D. Vigil
Assistant District Manager of Inspection Programs

John A. Kuzar
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB96C31