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South Central District

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

Ogden Quarry and Plant
Gifford-Hill & Company
New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas
ID No. 41-00059

October 4, 1996


Alex Baca, Mine Safety & Health Inspector

Originating Office
South Central District Office
1100 Commerce Street, Room 4C50
Dallas, Texas 75242-0499

Doyle D. Fink
District Manager


Donald Rawls, weighmaster, age 31, was fatally injured about 11:30 a.m., on October 4, 1996, when he was run over by an empty railroad car being coupled to a train. Rawls had 12 years and seven months mining experience, all as a weighmaster at this mine. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

John Faust, plant manager notified MSHA at 12:05 p.m., on the day of the accident. An investigation was started on the same day.

The Ogden Quarry and Plant, an open pit crushed stone operation, located near New Braunfels, Texas, was owned and operated by Gifford-Hill & Company. Principal operating officials were Thomas G. Ivey, vice president and John R. Faust, plant manager. The mine operated one 10-hour shift, five days a week. A total of 105 persons was employed.

Limestone was extracted by drilling and blasting in the quarry. Broken material was transported by off-road trucks to a primary crusher where the material was crushed, screened and sized. The mine produced an average of 15,000 tons of finish product per day. Railroad cars transported the crushed material throughout the state of Texas.

The last regular inspection at this operation was conducted on July 3, 1996. Another inspection was conducted in conjunction with the accident investigation.


The accident occurred on a dead-end spur east of the main plant called the "Water Track Area." Railroad cars, waiting repair by Union Pacific Railroad mechanics, were parked on the approximately 500-foot-long spur. The two cars involved in the accident were parked about 100 feet from the end of the spur, on the 56-inch-wide track. The track grade was 3 percent at the location where the two rail cars were parked.

Gifford-Hill & Company owned the two 1500 Series GIHX 100-Ton Twin Hopper railroad cars and identified them as No. 1517 and No. 1591. The cars were about thirty-four feet long by ten and one half feet wide and weighed approximately 33 tons. The distance between the coupled cars was 35-inches. Each car had two truck assemblies consisting of two axles and four 36-inch diameter wheels, mounted 34-inches apart at each end. The cars were equipped with air-actuated service brakes and wheel-actuated manual brakes. The manual brake actuator was mounted approximately 10-feet above ground on the ends of the cars.

The train locomotive used to move the rail cars was manufactured by Montreal Locomotive Works, LTD. and was powered by a 600-HP Cummins diesel engine.

The train operator and the brakeman used hand-held Motorola, Model Radius P50 radios to communicate. Rawls was not carrying a radio at the time of the accident.


On the day of the accident, Donald Rawls, (victim) reported to work at 7:00 a.m., his normal starting time. Work progressed normally, until about 11:15 a.m. At that time, Felix Castilleja, train operator and Gregorio Perez, brakeman were in the process of moving three empty railroad cars from the plant to track #2 with the Montreal locomotive.

As the train passed the old scale house, Perez noticed Rawls throwing the switch to the water track spur. It was not uncommon for Rawls to throw switches and assist the train operator and the brakeman in performance of their tasks. Perez called Castilleja on the radio and had the train stopped. Rawls told Perez that two 1500 series railroad cars (1517 and 1591) located on the water track spur had been repaired and to move them to track #2. They coupled two empty Missouri Pacific railroad cars and another locomotive to the train between the scale house and the 1500 series cars.

As the train proceeded toward the 1500 series cars, Perez and Rawls walked on opposite sides of the train. As they approached the cars, Perez stated that he talked to Rawls through the space between cars of the train. Rawls was going to inspect the new wheels that had been installed by Union Pacific on the 1500 series cars. Approximately 6 feet from the cars, Perez radioed Castilleja and had him stop the train so he could align the couplers.

After Perez aligned the couplers, he shouted a warning to watch out and radioed Castilleja to move the train up to make the "couple". Castilleja sounded his horn, moved the train up and "coupled" to the 1500 series cars, which moved about 30 inches down the track. Perez continued walking along side of the 1500 cars and saw Rawls lying on the ground between the two cars. As Perez approached Rawls he realized one of the wheels of car 1591 was on top of him. He radioed Castilleja and told him to move the train backwards. Perez pulled Rawls from between the cars as the train moved backwards, then he radioed for help. Perez administered CPR until the ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later and the emergency medical personnel took over the first-aid efforts. Rawls was air lifted by helicopter to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.


The primary causes of the accident were the failure to ensure that persons were in the clear before coupling railroad cars and that effective communication between the victim, brakeman and the train operator existed.

As there were no witnesses to the accident, MSHA concluded the victim was attempting to cross between the two 1500 series railroad cars about the same time contact by the train occurred. The brakeman knew the victim intended to inspect the cars, however, was not aware he was between the cars.


Order Number 4447101
Issued on October 4, 1996, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act.

A slip and fall of a person has occurred at the railroad car yard "Water Track Area" that resulted in a fatal injury. The order prohibits the moving of the railroad cars to ensure the safety of persons until MSHA deems the cars and the area safe to others miners in the area.

This order was terminated on October 7, 1996, when all the railroad equipment was deemed safe to use by the miners.

Citation Number 4444388
Issued on October 10, 1996 under the provision of section 104(d)(1), for a violation of 30 CFR 56.9319(b).

A miner was fatally injured October 4, 1996, while attempting to cross between two coupled rail cars. The weighmaster had not notified the train operator and received acknowledgment before stepping between the cars. At the time of the accident the train was being coupled to two empty cars.

This citation was terminated on October 10, 1996, when all employees involved in the rail loading process have been instructed on the safety procedures for crossing over, between and under rail cars.

/s/Ronald M. Mesa
Special Investigator

/s/Alex Baca
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by: Doyle D. Fink, District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB96M38]