DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
Accident Investigation Report
Surface Area of Underground Metal Mine
Fatal Powered Haulage Accident
Exploration Incorporated of Nevada
Mountain Pass, San Bernardino County, California
ID No. 04-02965
May 18, 1996
David A. Kerber
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Western District Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
3333 Vaca Valley Parkway, Suite 600
Vacaville, California 95688
Fred M. Hansen
Joseph N. Kelly, truck driver and miner, age 70, was fatally injured on May 18, 1996 at 1:30 p.m. when the truck he was operating overturned. Kelly, with 50 years of mining experience, had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48. MSHA classified the property as abandoned in 1973. The agency had not been notified of any mining activity prior to the accident.
An officer with the California Highway Patrol notified MSHA at 5:30 p.m. on the day of the accident. An investigation was started the following day.
The Kokoweef Mine, owned by Exploration Inc. of Nevada,had been operated intermittently since the late 1920's. Owners and investors drilled and blasted while driving drifts in an attempt to locate a fabled "lost river of gold." There were no employees or established work schedules. At the time of the accident seven persons, called "volunteers," were working underground and five were working on the surface. Operating officials were Larry Hahn, president; James Serrill, secretary; and Michael Mackey, board of directors member.
PHYSICAL FACTORS INVOLVED
The access road extended five miles from Interstate Highway 15 to the mine. It inclined at a five percent grade as it approached the mine and was poorly maintained by the company. At the site of the accident the road was elevated about seven foot and was approximately 14 feet wide. There were no berms along this portion of the road.
The truck involved in the accident was a 2 � ton, 1967 rear dump, Ford, Model L600. The doors had been removed and seat belts were not provided. There were two outside rear view mirrors. The tires were worn and showed signs of dry rot. A 8-inch by 4-inch rock was wedged between the right rear dual tires and the outside tire was deflated. The truck appeared to be poorly maintained, however, no mechanical defects were found that would have prevented its operation. The vehicle was used on an "as needed" basis.
The weather was dry and sunny on the day of the accident.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On the day of the accident, Joseph Kelly (victim) began work at 8:00 a.m. He and an associate decided that the main access road needed to be widened and leveled in preparation for an upcoming investors' meeting. Kelly had a twelve year old boy riding with him while he hauled three loads of material to the location needing repair. He was obtaining the material from a site about one-eighth mile down the road. About 1:30 p.m. he backed the truck into position, near to the road edge, in order to dump the third load. Realizing he was too close to the edge, he apparently believed he needed to reduce the load to stabilize the truck. Kelly told the boy to get out and then began raising the truck bed. The left rear wheels came off the ground and the truck overturned. It rolled over one and one-fourth times before coming to rest on its side. Kelly either jumped or was ejected, striking his head on a rock when he hit the ground.
The young passenger was unable to get Kelly to respond to him so he ran to the mine to inform his father, Drew White, of the accident. They both returned to the accident site. White recognized he needed help and sent his son to ask someone at the mine to summon Flight for Life. The air ambulance service was unavailable so Kelly was loaded in the bed of a pickup truck and transported to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was pronounced dead at 2:15 p.m.
The practice of dumping material along the roadway edge where adequate berms were not provided was the direct cause of this accident. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the failure to replace the dump truck doors and to provide seat belts.
CITATIONS AND ORDERS
Order No. 4143504
Issued on May 18, 1996 under provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act.
Citation No. 4143505
Issued on May 22, 1996 under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 57.9300(b):
Citation No. 4143507
Issued May 18, 1996 under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 50.10:
Citation No. 4143508
Issued on May 22, 1996 under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 57.14131(a):
Citation No. 4143509
Issued on May 22, 1996 under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 57.14100(b):
Order No. 4523365
Issued on May 22, 1996 under provisions of Section 104(g)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 48.5(a)
Citation No. 4523364
Issued on May 21, 1996 under the provisions of 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 48.3(a):
Citation No. 4144141
Issued on October 2, 1996 under the provisions of 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 50.12 (the extended period for completing the investigation was due to the mine having suspended operations and then not notifying MSHA upon reopening):
/s/ David A. Kerber
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Approved by: Fred M.Hansen, Manager Western District
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin: