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Southeastern District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Falling/Sliding Material Accident

Mt. Airy Mine and Mill
The NC Granite Corporation
Mt. Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Mine I.D. 31-00037

October 9, 1996


Larry R. Nichols
Supervisory Mine Inspector

Charles McDaniel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector


Gary R. Whitaker
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

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

Martin Rosta
District Manager


Charles R. Edwards, laborer, age 58, was fatally injured at about 9:15 a.m. on October 9, 1996, when he was crushed between two granite blocks. The victim had a total of 18 years mining experience, all as a laborer with this company. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.

David Vernon, safety director for the NC Granite Corporation, notified the MSHA Sanford, North Carolina field office of the accident at 10:30 a.m., on October 9, 1996. An investigation was started the next day.

The Mt. Airy Quarry, a dimension stone operation, owned and operated by The NC Granite Corporation, was located along State Highway 103 E, within the city limits of Mt. Airy, Surry County, North Carolina. The principal operating official was Don Shelton, chief operating official. The quarry normally operated one 8-hour shift a day, 5 days a week. The mill operated two 8-hour shifts a day, 7 days a week. A total of 91 persons was employed.

Granite blocks were either extracted on mine property or purchased from mines throughout the United States and Canada. At the quarry, large blocks of granite were mined by drilling closely spaced, vertical holes approximately 8 feet deep, to a natural seam. Black powder and prima cord were used to free the blocks. This process was repeated to subdivide blocks into smaller sizes. The blocks were loaded onto flat bed trucks by fork lifts and transported to the mill to be sawed into slabs, sized and polished. This product was used for building stone and monuments. Waste material was crushed, screened, stockpiled and sold for decorating rock.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed November 2, 1995. Another regular inspection was conducted at the conclusion of this investigation.


The accident occurred in the old saw shed where blocks of granite were stacked on level ground. The blocks were unloaded with a Pellegrini, Model 857, operator-carrying overhead crane, equipped with a 50-ton main and 10-ton secondary hoist. Slings were made of Rochester wire rope, 3/4-inch in diameter and 60 feet long. When blocks were stacked on top of each other, wooden blocks were sometimes used to provide stability and to serve as spacers to enable the removal of slings. When blocks were stored for a short period of time, the slings were left between the granite blocks and spacers were not used.

The block that crushed the victim, measured 125 inches long, 71 inches wide, 44 inches thick and weighed approximately 14 tons. The block it was stacked on, measured 88 inches long, 52 inches wide and 47 inches thick. The surfaces of both blocks were irregular and when stacked on each other the top block became unstable. Spacers, or wooden blocks, were not used to stabilize the block being stacked.


On the day of the accident, Charles Edwards, victim, reported for work at 7:00 a.m., his normal starting time. Edwards, who had been doing this job for 18 years, received no specific instructions on the day of the accident. He began his normal duties of unloading and stacking blocks in and around the saw sheds.

At approximately 9:00 a.m., an over-the-road flat bed truck arrived on the property to deliver a large granite block. The truck driver parked in the open area of the saw shed and Floyd Edwards, crane operator, positioned the crane where the block could be unloaded. While Charles Edwards was on his way to assist in unloading the block, Robert Nunn, saw operator, positioned a sling around the block and attached it to the crane hook. By the time Charles Edwards arrived, the block had been hoisted off the truck and was still suspended.

It was Edwards (victim) job to determine where and how the blocks were to be stacked. He decided to stack this block on top of another and signaled the crane operator of his intent. When the block had been lowered onto the other granite block, he signaled for slack in the sling to check for movement. There were two other blocks stacked approximately 60 inches away and he climbed on the lower of the two to disconnect the sling. The crane operator lowered the hook and moved it toward Charles Edwards to enable him to reach the hook. He disconnected one end of the sling so that the crane operator could move the hook to the opposite side of the block for him to disconnect the other side from ground level.

While lowering himself to the ground, he placed one hand on the block that had just been stacked. Apparently, this caused the block to become overbalanced and it slid between the two lower blocks, crushing him.

Frank Simmons, wire saw operator, and Nunn witnessed the accident and immediately ran to the victim. While one checked for a pulse, the other telephoned for an ambulance. The victim was transported to Northern Surry County Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He died as a result of crushing injuries.


The cause of the accident was stacking the block of granite in a manner that it became overbalanced and fell when touched.


Citation No. 4355505
Issued on October 15, 1996, under the provisions of 104(a) of the Mine Act for a violation of 30 CFR 56.16001.

On October 9, 1996, at approximately 0900 hrs., A laborer was fatally injured when he was crushed between two large granite blocks. He was in the process of egress from another block of granite to the ground. As he placed his hand on the just stacked block (approximately 14 tons), for leverage, the block slipped or tipped and fell crushing him against another block.

/S/ Larry R. Nichols
Supervisory Mine Inspector

/S/ Charles McDaniel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/S/ Gary R. Whitaker
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by: Martin Rosta, District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB96M39]