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Accident Investigation Report
Surface Metal Mine

Fatal Machinery Accident

Edick and Watt Inc.
Contractor ID ZQX
Baxter Mine
HAHM International
Baker, San Bernardino County, California
ID No. 04-03569

February 26, 1997


Gary Cook
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

James Zingler
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

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

James M. Salois
District Manager


Anthony Watt, contract driller, age 29, was fatally injured at about 11:00 a.m., February 26, 1997, when the highwall bench he was drilling failed, carrying him down into an old abandoned mine shaft where he was buried. Watt had worked in the mining industry for about eight years, and had been at the Baxter mine the past two years. He had not received any training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

Anna Descher, office manager for HAHM International, notified MSHA of the accident at 1:30 p.m. on February 26, 1997. An investigation was started the same day.

The accident occurred at the Baxter mine, a three-bench, surface iron ore mine owned by California Portland Cement and operated by HAHM International of Apple Valley, San Bernardino County, California. The principal operating officials were Scott R. Descher, president and manager, and Kenn W. Crafton, foreman. The mine normally operated one, 10-hour shift per day, five days per week. HAHM International had a total of six persons employed at the mine. Edick and Watt had one employee at the mine.

Mining was accomplished by drilling and blasting the benches. The ore was loaded into haul trucks by front end loaders and hauled to the primary crusher for processing.

A regular inspection of this intermittent operation was completed on February 15, 1996. Another regular inspection was conducted on March 26, 1997.


The Baxter mine had several adits, shafts and trenches throughout the ore deposit. The property had been mined intermittently since 1930 for iron ore, which was used in the manufacture of cement. The abandoned underground mine was below the working benches of the open pit.

The accident occurred on the upper bench of the open pit, about 20 feet above one of the abandoned mine drifts and a connected shaft. The underground drift extended north to south, measured about 100 feet in length, and varied in height from 3 feet at the north portal to 6 feet 5 inches where it exited the highwall on the southern end, directly below the bench being drilled.

Previous benching had caused fracturing of the rock at the location being drilled at the time of the accident.

The drill being used was a Gardner Denver, model SCH 3500 B, equipped with 12 foot drill steel and a 3� inch bit. The driller had surveyed the abandoned mine below the bench by sight to determine where to drill. Accurate engineering studies were not available to the operator since the drift was mined in the early 1900's.

The established drill patterns were 7 foot centers for the ore body and 9 foot centers for waste material. The hole being drilled at the time of the accident was in the second row from the face, about eight feet from the highwall edge. The drill bit cut into a smooth sided fault area directly over an undetected cavity in the drift. This 4 foot high cavity had been developed to provide working space for sinking a shaft that extended approximately 20 feet from the drift floor. The drill operator was standing directly above the shaft when the highwall failed.

The weather conditions were partly cloudy and cool, with a slight wind and good visibility.


On February 26, 1997, the day of the accident, Anthony Watt (victim), reported for work at about 7:00 a.m. He discussed the drift's location with HAHM International foreman Kenn Crafton and his plans to drill so as to minimize the effect of the drift on blasting results. He then went to the site and began drilling. Watt had problems maintaining the collars around the drill holes because loose material was falling into them. He contacted Crafton and requested that the bench be scraped off. Crafton brought a dozer up and scraped the bench. Watt resumed drilling without further problems until the 11:00 a.m. accident.

Watt drilled one hole near the bench perimeter and moved back to start another hole. He drilled about ten feet when the high wall beneath him failed. He fell to the abandoned south portal where falling material knocked him into the drift and down into the shaft where he was covered by falling and sliding material.

DeWayne R. Redding, a mechanic for the Baxter mine, heard a change in the sound of the drill and went to investigate. He discovered the failure of the high wall and yelled to his son, Dewayne W. Redding, to look for Watt while he called 911. Employees Kenn G. Crafton and Charles Dotters entered the north portal while other employees began moving rock by hand below the south portal where the falling materials had settled. Watt was found at the bottom of the shaft about an hour after the search started.

Paramedics from the Baker Emergency Medical System ambulance service arrived while Crafton and Dotters were digging for Watt. They entered the drift and waited at the top of the shaft. Dotters, who had trained as an EMT, tried to find a pulse on Watt's carotid artery without success. He told the paramedics there was no pulse and that Watt's skin was discolored. Based on that information, the paramedics determined Watt had expired.

Within minutes of the time that Watt was found, the Desert Rescue Squad and other representatives of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department arrived at the accident scene, as did the Baker Fire Department. The rescue squad requested that all persons be removed from the area until material covering the north and south portals could be removed to allow for safe access to the accident area. Once this was done, recovery operations resumed.

MSHA inspector Gary Cook arrived at the site at 4:45 p.m. and withdrew all persons after determining that the area was unsafe to continue recovery efforts. Subsequent discussions between Cook and the sheriff's department resulted in rescue teams from Barrick Bullfrog Mine being called to assist.

Two teams arrived at the mine site at approximately 12:45 a.m., February 27, 1997. After examining ground conditions, they scaled down loose rock, installed timbers, and proceed with the recovery. Watt was recovered at 10:15 a.m. on February 27, 1997.

The death certificate indicated time of death was about 11:00 a.m., February 26, 1997, prior to rescue attempts by employees and others at the scene.


The accident occurred because work was being performed on ground that had been fractured and weakened by surface and underground drilling and blasting. The lack of a safety belt and line contributed to the severity of the accident.


Order No. 7952163
Issued to HAHM International on February 26, 1997 under the provisions of Section 103 (k) of the Mine Act:

On February 26, 1997, a surface miner was fatally injured in a rock fall. This order was issued to insure the safety of persons until the affected areas of the mine could be returned to normal operation.

The order was terminated once the investigation was completed.

Order/Citation No. 7952164
Issued to HAHM International on February 26, 1997 under the provisions of Section 107(a) and 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.3200:

On February 26, 1997, a surface miner was fatally injured in a rock fall. Rescue squads involved with the recovery operations inside the drift were exposed to dangerous ground conditions. Material was sloughing off the highwall near the south portal and inside the drift. Loose rock was hanging directly over the heads of recovery personnel exposing them to an imminent danger.

The order/citation was terminated once the workers were withdrawn and the drifts barricaded.

Citation No. 7952166
Issued to HAHM International on February 26, 1997 under provisions of Section 104 (a)of the Mine Act for the violation of 30 CFR 56.15005:

On February 26, 1997 a surface miner was fatally injured in a rock fall. He was drilling near the perimeter of a highwall, where there was a chance of falling and was not tied off with a safety belt and line.

The citation was terminated once all employees were trained in the use of safety belts and lines.

Citation No. 7952172
Issued to Edick and Watt Inc. on February 26, 1997 under the provisions of Section 104 (a) of the Mine Act for the violation of 30 CFR 56.15005:

On February 26, 1997 a surface miner was fatally injured in a rock fall. He was drilling near the perimeter of a highwall, where there was a chance of falling and was not tied off with a safety belt and line.

ID No. 04-03569-zqx, Edick and Watt Inc., Baxter Mine

/s/ James Zingler
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ Gary L. Cook
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by: James M. Salois, District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M14]