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Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

Northfork Excavating Inc.
Northfork Excavating Inc. (mine)
Sherwood, Washington County, Oregon
ID No. 35-03418

February 3, 1997


Arnold E. Pederson
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Dennis D. Harsh
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Mine Safety and Health Administration
Western District
3333 Vaca Valley Parkway, Suite 600
Vacaville, California 95688

James M. Salois
Acting District Manager


Thomas E. Cook, haul truck operator, age 37, was fatally injured February 3, 1997, at about 12:15 p.m., when the truck he was operating went over an embankment into a pond. The victim had over 10 years of mining experience, including 8 months as an equipment operator/truck driver at this property. Cook had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

Deborah Eaton, president of Northfork Excavating Inc., notified MSHA of this accident on February 3, 1997, at approximately 1:50 pm. An investigation was started the following day.

The accident occurred at a quarry operated by Northfork Excavating Inc., and owned by Tri-Cities Gun Club. The quarry was located one mile east of Sherwood, Washington County, Oregon. A total of fourteen employees worked one 11-hour shift, six days a week.

A LS 5800 Link Belt trackhoe loaded drilled and blasted rock onto Volvo model A-30 haul trucks. The material was then transported about three-tenths of a mile to the processing plant where it was crushed and screened to produce different sizes and grades of stone. This multiple bench mine had an average daily production of 1400 tons.

Principal Officials for Northfork Excavating, Inc. were Deborah Eaton, president, Joel Eaton, secretary/treasurer, and Jon Eaton, crusher superintendent

The last regular inspection of this mining operation was completed January 8, 1997. Following the accident a regular inspection was conducted March 11, 1997.


The haul truck involved in the accident was a Volvo BM A30 6 x 6 three-axle hauler with hydro-mechanical articulated steering. The four wheel drive truck, with engageable six wheel drive capability, had a 30 ton capacity. The engine was a six cylinder, in-line four stroke, direct injection, turbo charged Volvo TD 102 MH diesel with an intercooler. The power transmission was a fully automated planetary type with six forward and two reverse gears. A hydraulic retarder was integrated with the transmission. The service brakes were dual circuit air hydraulic disk brakes with one circuit for the engine unit and one for the load unit. The spring-applied, air-released parking brake acted on the propeller shaft. When the parking brake was applied, the longitudinal differential was locked. The steering system was a hydro-mechanical type with an independent backup system that would operate in the event of loss of engine power. The vehicle would articulate up to 45 degrees.

The cab met ROPS standards and had one door and an emergency exit that was incorporated into the right-rear, side window. The emergency exit could be opened by removing a locking strip from the rubber window seal. However, a securely fastened nylon net covered the emergency window and would have impeded or prevented exit. The manufacturer stated that the net, located next to the trainer's seat, was a safety feature intended to protect the trainer from a fall hazard. Seat belts were provided but rescuers were unable to state whether or not they had been in use.

Records indicate that Volvo haul truck #1 received regular maintenance service, about every 250 hours, from Triad Machinery, the local Volvo dealer. Mechanical repairs requested by the mine operator, and noted on the equipment inspection reports, were also done by this company. On February 10, 1997, Triad Machinery tested brake pressure on the vehicle involved in the accident. All pressures were within manufacturer's specifications. The investigation disclosed no mechanical defects in the truck.

The haul road linking the quarry and the processing plant was about three-tenths of a mile long and averaged 20-feet in width. The road made a 90 degree right turn, on level ground, immediately after leaving the quarry loading area. At this point, where the accident occurred, the edge of the 20-foot wide roadway dropped sharply 10-feet to the bottom of a pond. There were no guard rails or berms along this section of the road. The pond was about 5 feet deep, 100 feet long, and 50 feet wide.

On the day of the accident the weather was dry with overcast skies.


On February 3, 1997 Thomas Cook (victim) reported for work at 6:00 a.m., his normal starting time. Cook spent most of the morning hauling material mined by Northfork Excavating, Inc. from the northwest area of the pit to a dump location adjacent to the crushing/screening plant, a distance of about three-tenths of a mile.

About mid-morning Cook parked his truck and left the mine site to conduct some personal business. He returned about noon and drove his truck to the quarry for another load of material. After the truck was loaded, Cook pulled forward and, failing to negotiate the right turn, drove off the road. The truck and trailer plunged into the adjoining pond, coming to rest on their left sides.

Matthew Herlitz, who operated the same type vehicle, witnessed the 12:15 p.m. accident. He stated that it usually took two attempts to negotiate the 90 degree right turn while pulling away from the loading area, but Cook attempted to make it in a single try. He saw the left front wheel at the edge of the road and watched as it slipped off. The cab went into the water followed by the loaded truck bed. Herlitz stated that he did not notice heavy smoke coming from the truck's exhaust, an indication that the truck was being accelerated in an attempt to drive through the hazard, nor did he detect signs of the driver having difficulty steering or making any attempt to stop the truck.

Herlitz called for help on his CB radio, then waded to the submerged cab where he was unable to locate Cook. Daniel Ferguson, excavator operator, immediately moved his excavator into position and lifted the truck bed upright, but the articulated cab section remained on its side. He then repositioned and raised the cab out of the water. Jon Eaton, crusher superintendent, and William Parke, contract driller, entered the cab through the side window. With the help of Todd Graham, truck driver, and Randy Hutchens, plant loader operator, Cook was removed from the cab, through the windshield opening, and taken to shore. Herlitz checked for vital signs and started CPR. Cook responded with labored breathing. Paramedics from Sherwood Fire and Rescue arrived and took over resuscitation efforts. Cook died while in transit to the University of Oregon Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead due to drowning at 1:26 p.m.


The accident occurred because the operator did not maintain control of the haulage truck as it traveled a haul road which lacked required berms and/or guard rails.


Order No. 7950407
Issued on Feb. 4, 1997, under provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:

On February 3, 1997 a haul truck driver drowned after his truck left the haul road and plunged into a pond. This order was issued to protect other persons working or traveling in the area.

This order was terminated on February 6, 1997 after the area was made safe for travel.

Citation No. 7950408
Issued Feb. 4, 1997, under the provisions of Section 104(d)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.9300(a):

On February 3, 1997 a haul truck driver drowned after his truck left the haul road and plunged into a pond. The elevated roadway was not provided with a berm or guard rail for a distance of about 100 feet where it paralleled the pond. This is an unwarrantable failure.

The citation was terminated on Feb. 5, 1997 after a berm was installed along the roadway.

Citation No. 7950409
Issued Feb. 4, 1997, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30CFR 56.9101:

On Feb. 3, 1997 a haul truck driver drowned after his truck left the haul road and plunged into a pond. The operator failed to maintain control of his vehicle.

The citation was terminated on Feb. 8, 1997 after reviewing haulage safety requirements with the operator.

Citation No. 7950410
Issued Feb. 8, 1997, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.18002(a):

On Feb. 3, 1997 a haul truck driver drowned after his truck left the haul road and plunged into a pond. The mine operator had not been examining the work area where this accident occurred.

This citation was terminated after the operator was informed that the quarry must be included in work area examinations.

/s/ Arnold E. Pederson
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ Dennis D. Harsh
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by: James M. Salois, Acting District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M08]