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South Central District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine
(Sand and Gravel)

Fatal Power Haulage Accident

Valley Caliche Products, Inc.
Beck Quarry
Mission, Hidalgo County, Texas
I.D. No. 41-01477

March 24, 1997


Ronald M. Mesa, Special Investigator
Ralph Rodriguez, Metal Nonmetal Mine Inspector

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

Doyle D. Fink
District Manager


Rolando Gonzalez, plant operator, age 40, was injured at approximately 9:00 a.m. on March 24, 1997, when he became entangled in the tail pulley of the number 38 belt feeder. He was pronounced dead at 11:04 a.m. after being transported to Mission Hospital in Hidalgo County, Texas. Gonzalez had a total of eleven years six months mining experience all at this operation. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.

Bradley Vangsnes, safety director notified the MSHA San Antonio, Texas field office of the accident at 9:43 a.m. on March 24, 1997. An investigation was started the same day.

The Beck Quarry, owned and operated by Valley Caliche Products, Inc., was located on 3 Mile Road, West of Mission, Hidalgo County, Texas. The principal operating official was Robert H. Thompson, president. The mine normally operated one, ten-hour shift per day, five days a week. Forty persons were employed.

Sand and gravel was transported by haul trucks to the plant for washing and screening. The material was then transported by conveyors to stockpiles. The finished product was used in the road building and general construction industry.

The last regular inspection was completed on February 11, 1997.


The accident occurred at the tail pulley of the number 38 belt feeder. The number 38 belt and number 35 belt feeders were located adjacent to each other and below the 40 ton surge bin. The surge bin fed materials to the belts which were 15 inches apart. The belt feeders were Kolberg Manufacturing Model 936-8. Both belt feeders were powered by 7� horsepower, 460 volt 3 phase electrical motors. The belt feeders were 36 inches wide and 8 feet in length. The conveyor belts were Georgia Duck Plylock, Model 330-3, and were � inch in thickness. The speed of the belts was measured at 88 feet per minute using a tachometer.

A large pile of sandy wet material was beneath both belts. This material had fallen from number 38 belt and had accumulated to within 1 foot 6 inches of the tail pulley. The distance from the tail pulley to the concrete floor was 4 feet 10 inches.

The tail pulley was a Dodge QD heavy duty wing pulley. The diameter of the tail pulley was 10 inches. The pulley had 8 wings, which were 38 inches in length, 1 � inches wide and spaced 2 inches apart. The tail pulley assembly had two adjusting bolts, one on each side of the pulley. The bolts were 1 inch in diameter and 18 inches in length. There were two wrenches used to adjust the conveyor belt. One wrench was a home made open end wrench and was 14 inches in length and 1 inch in width. The other was a 14 inch adjustable pipe wrench. The wrenches were kept in the area of belt number 38 because the adjusting process was an on going problem. The adjustments could be made while the belts were running.

The tail pulley had two separate guards. The steel guard on top of the tail pulley was 4 foot 10 inches in length, 1 foot 10 inches wide at the top and 1 foot 1 inch in height. There was a 15 inch opening in front of the pulley, which allowed direct contact with the pinch point.

The guard below the tail pulley was constructed of heavy duty screen. This guard was 3 feet 10 inches in length and 2 feet 5 inches in width.


Rolando Gonzalez, victim, reported to work at 6:00 a.m. on March 24, 1997, his regular starting time. Gonzalez began his usual task of starting the water pumps for the plant. After Gonzalez started all of the water pumps, Sergio Verastegui, plant operator started the plant at 6:30 a.m. Gonzalez performed his task of watching and making sure that all the conveyors were running properly.

Jose Facundo, maintenance man, went to belt number 38 around 7:00 a.m. to check if everything was running normally. He found a small amount of spillage underneath the belt. The belt was starting to untrack because of built up material in the wings of the pulley. He did not adjust the belt at this time.

Facundo left the area and proceeded with his other duties until around 8:45 a.m. when he returned to adjust the alignment of the belt. He found a large build up of material underneath the tail pulley and he attempted to adjust the belt on the West side. At the same time, Gonzalez (victim) arrived and seeing that Facundo was having a problem adjusting the belt, went underneath the unguarded portion of the belt to the adjustment bolt on the East side of the tail pulley. Gonzalez got to the other side and hollered at Facundo to try adjusting the belt one more time. Facundo stated that Gonzalez started to scream and hollered to stop the belt. There was not an emergency stop device along side belt 38, so Facundo ran to belt number 40 and tripped the stop cord, which was interlocked with belt 38. Jose also signaled by waving his hands to the plant operator to shut down the plant.

Verastegui came out of the control room after shutting down the plant, saw Gonzalez lying on the muck pile and returned to the control room to call for help. After learning that the loader operator had already informed the foreman of the accident, Verastegui returned to the accident scene. Verastegui observed the victim sitting on the muck pile. Gonzalez was unresponsive, and his arm had been amputated. Verastegui attempted to stop the bleeding with his shirt.

Gonzalez was transported by company truck to the EMT station at Edinburg and was moved from there to Mission Hospital by ambulance. He was pronounced dead at 11:04 a.m..


The causes of this accident included: failure to maintain an adequate guard on the tail pulley to protect persons from contacting the pinch point and failure to maintain a clean and orderly workplace by allowing the build-up of materials under a conveyor at a place where work was being performed.


Order Number 4447234
Issued on March 24, 1997, under the provision of Section 103(k):

An accident with a possible fatality has occurred at the plants #35 material hopper. This order prohibits the use of the plant or any work in or near the #35 hopper pending an investigation by MSHA, until it is deemed safe for other miners to use the equipment.

This order was modified on 3/24/97 to read:

The area is to be the 40 ton surge bin and No. 35 and No. 38 feeder belts.

The Order was terminated on April 9, 1997.

Citation Number 4447248
Issued under the provision of Section 104(a), for violations of 30 CFR 56.14107(a):

A fatal accident occurred at this mine on 3/24/97. The plant operator became entangled in the tail pulley of the No. 38 Feeder belt. The tail pulley was 10 inches in diameter. There was a 15 inch opening in front of the pinch point allowing the operator access to the tail pulley. The guard which was installed on the tail pulley was not adequate to prevent access to the pinch point.

Citation Number 4447249
Issued under the provision of Section 104(a), for violations of 30 CFR 56.20003(a):

A fatal accident occurred at this mine on 3/24/97. The plant operator became entangled in the tail pulley of the No. 38 feeder belt. Allegedly he was performing adjustments and maintenance on the conveyor belt. The plant operator was working on top of material which was built up to within 1 foot of the conveyor belt. The material was overflow from the 40 ton surge bin which feeds the no. 38 conveyor belt. The material had not been cleaned up.

The Citation was terminated on April 9, 1997 when the spillage of material under the tail pulley area of belt #38 had been cleaned to the concrete slab.

/s/Ronald M. Mesa

/s/Ralph Rodriguez

Approved By: Doyle D. Fink, District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M18]