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Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Metal-Nonmetal
(Sand and Gravel)

Fatal Power Haulage Accident

Capitol Aggregates, LTD.
Pit & Plant No. 4
Austin, Travis County, Texas
I.D. No. 41-01792

March 14, 1998


James S. Smiser
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Inspector

Ayers D. Bowen
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
1100 Commerce Street, Room 4C50
Dallas, Texas 75242-0119

Doyle D. Fink
District Manager


Paul Reyes, Jr., welder, age 24, was fatally injured at about 09:30 a.m., on March 14, 1998, when he was drawn into a surge pile while working on the head pulley of a stacker conveyor belt. Reyes had a total of two years and five months mining experience, all as a welder at this operation. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified at 4:30 p.m., on the day of the accident by a telephone call from Adam Ybarra, safety manager for the mining company. An investigation was started the same day.

The Pit & Plant No. 4, an open pit sand and gravel operation, owned and operated by Capitol Aggregates, LTD., was located at Austin, Travis County, Texas. The principal operating officials were Kenneth Kramer, production superintendent and Frank B. Willis, vice-president/general manager. The mine was normally operated one, 10-hour shift a day, five and one half days a week. Total employment was 38 persons.

Sand and gravel was extracted by dragline and front-end loader from multiple pits. Mined material was hauled by front-end loader and truck to the plant where it was crushed, sized and stockpiled. Stockpiles were maintained by a series of radial stacker conveyors. The finished product was sold primarily for general industry, road construction, and used in company-owned concrete batching plants.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on February 25, 1998. Another inspection was conducted following this investigation.


The accident occurred in the plant at the sand stacker conveyor belt surge pile. The surge pile was drawn down by a manually operated, air activated clamshell-type feeder gate in the tunnel below, which discharged onto a belt conveyor feeding the concrete batching plant. The feeder gate was operated at its location in the tunnel. The tunnel was 820 feet long and contained 16 feed gates. The feed gate openings were 17 inches square and were positioned 15 inches above the belt conveyor. The gate opening travel was limited by a length of chain.

The stacker conveyor involved in the accident was approximately 125 feet long and 35 feet above ground level at the head pulley. The top of the stockpile was level with the walkway alongside the conveyor head pulley. The bottom of the walkway had rested on the top of the stockpile.

The pillow block bearing on the headpulley was being replaced, which required removal of the gear box. The drive belts and guard had been removed and placed on the walkway. Hand tools were positioned on the walkway in a manner indicating they were placed there from the surge pile.


On the day of the accident, Paul Reyes, Jr. (victim) reported for work at 7:00 a.m., his regular starting time. He began his shift by gathering parts and tools needed to replace the pillow block bearing. Reyes and his helper, Richard Ellis, went to the primary plant where they locked-out and tagged the power switches for the radial stacker. They removed the drive belts and guard and began to remove the gear box. The bushing and lock ring would not come loose from gear box, so the lock ring was cut with a torch and removed. Reyes then sent Ellis to the shop to obtain some bolts. Reyes was working from the walkway at that time.

At about 09:30 a.m., Henry Garcia, tunnel belt tender, opened the No. 4 feeder gate to allow sand to be conveyed to the concrete batching plant. Sand flowed for about two minutes when a rubber boot passed through the gate onto the conveyor. Garcia removed the boot from the conveyor and then saw legs protruding from the gate. Garcia ran from the tunnel and signaled the plant operator to shut down the conveyor belt, then ran to the maintenance shop and told Ron Kastner, mechanic boss, and Jeff Stovall, truck foreman, that someone was in the surge pile. Stovall called the local 911 emergency number for help, while Kastner went to the surge pile to attempt to dig the victim out.

Stovall and Garcia returned to the tunnel and tried to remove the victim from the feeder gate, but could not due to the chain limiting the gate opening. Additional help arrived and the chain was removed with a pry bar allowing extraction of the victim. Reyes was pronounce dead at the scene a short time later by the county medical examiner.


The primary cause of the accident was failure to lock out the feeder gate prior to working on top of the surge pile. Failure to wear a safety belt and line greatly contributed to the severity of the accident.


Order Number 4456301, was issued on March 14, 1998 under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:

A fatal accident occurred when an employee working on the primary plant stacker conveyor sand belt drive motor was asphyxiated when he fell through to the gate above the materials conveyor in the tunnel. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this opersation until the affected areas can be returned to normal operations as determined by an authorized representative of the Secretary of Labor. The operator shall obtain approval from authorized representative for all actions to restore operations in the affected area.
This order was terminated on March 16, 1998, after it was determined that the mine could safely resume normal operation.

Citation Number 4456240, was issue on April 13, 1998 under the provision of Section 104(d)(1) for violation of 30 CFR Part 56.16002(c):

A fatal accident occurred at this operation on March 14, 1998, when an employee was engulfed in the surge pile. He was standing on top of the pile while working on the head pulley of the sand stacker conveyor belt and was engulfed when the surge pile tunnel conveyor was started and the tunnel clamshell feeder gate below was opened. The victim was not wearing a safety belt and line and the feeder gate was not locked out. Reportedly, employees have worked from the top of the surge pile without using belts, life lines and without locking out the tunnel clamshell feeder gate below. This is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98M13