Skip to content
MSHA - Fatal Investigation Report


South Central District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Underground Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

Cargill Salt Company
Avery Island Mine
Avery Island, Iberia Parish, Louisiana
I.D. No. 16-00509

November 5, 1998


Arthur L. Ellis
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

W. Dewayne Thompson
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ronald Medina
Mechanical Engineer

Originating Office
South Central District
Mine Safety and Health Administration
1100 Commerce St., Room 4C50
Dallas, TX 75242-0499

Doyle D. Fink
District Manager


Alvin Young Jr., equipment operator, age 51, was fatally injured at 10:15 a.m. on November 5, 1998, when he was caught between a metal support for a belt conveyor and the canopy of the tractor he was operating. Young had 25 years and 5 months total mining experience all at this mine, the last year and 7 months as an equipment operator. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified at 10:50 a.m. on the day of the accident by a telephone call from the operations coordinator for the mining company. An investigation was started the same day.

The Avery Island Mine, an underground salt mine, owned and operated by Cargill Salt Company, was located at Avery Island, Iberia Parish, Louisiana. The principal operating official was Charles Von Drousche, operations manager. The mine was normally operated one, 10-hour shift a day, four days a week. Maintenance was performed two, 8 hour shifts a day, five days a week. A total of 153 persons was employed; of this number, 88 persons worked underground.

The mine was developed by a room and pillar method of mining and was accessed from the surface by three vertical shafts. The salt was drilled and blasted, then placed in haul trucks by front end loaders for transportation to the crusher. The salt was crushed and conveyed to the 900-foot level where it was screened, sized and hoisted to the surface. The finished products were sold for ice control and a variety of industrial applications.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on August 10, 1998. Another inspection was conducted following this investigation.


The accident occurred at the southwest corner of Q-12 intersection on the 900-foot level. The intersection was approximately 100 feet long, 100 feet wide and 100 feet high. The floor was dry and level except for a two degree slope at the accident site. Illumination was provided by high-pressure sodium luminaries at the crusher and conveyor transfer area.

The equipment involved in the accident was a Gradall model 544B (material handler) wheel tractor with rear wheel steering and a rigid front axle. It was equipped with an extendable boom and a bucket. The weight of the tractor was 27,800 pounds. A diesel engine provided power to the front wheels through a three-speed transmission. The rear wheels were driven by hydraulic motors located at each wheel. Internal wet disc service brakes were provided on the front axle only. A spring applied disc parking brake was provided on the output shaft of the transmission. A falling object protective structure (FOPS) was mounted above the operator's cab. Lights were provided on the front of the tractor.

Inspection of the tractor verified that the controls, steering , hydraulic components, transmission, and brake systems were operating properly. The gear selector lever was found in the first gear forward position.


On the day of the accident, Alvin Young Jr. (victim) reported for work at 7:00 a.m., his regular starting time. He went underground to the 900 foot level where he met his supervisor, Oliver Brown and Darrell Baudoin, co-worker. They traveled to the screen plant to start the equipment and noticed that cleanup was needed at the tail pulleys. Young informed Brown that both skid-steer loaders were down and suggested they use a material handler tractor to clean around the tailpulleys.

Brown and Young went to the 1300-foot level where they found two of the tractors. One would not start and the other was being used by Sydney Latulus, production miner, to load pallets. Young assisted Latulus and then drove the tractor to the 900-foot level where he and Baudoin began to clean the area.

Brown returned to the 900-foot level a little after 9:00 a.m. and informed Young that when they finished cleaning up he should take the tractor to the maintenance shop for exhaust repairs. A short time later Baudoin told Young the clean-up was good enough and asked him to drive the tractor to the shop.

Brown, who was at the northeast corner of Q-12 intersection, saw Young as he drove by on the tractor and assumed he was going to turn around and go to the shop. When Brown looked again, he noticed the tractor had stopped under the conveyor belt. The engine was running and the left rear wheel was against the metal conveyor support. Young was slumped over in the seat with a head injury. He was apparently attempting to turn the tractor when he leaned out of the cab for a better view of the clearance between his rear wheel and the conveyor support column. While doing this, his head was caught between the conveyor support member and the FOPS. Brown immediately called Randal Romeo, department supervisor and Baudoin for help. Medical assistance was summoned and Young was placed in a stretcher and transported to the surface where he was pronounced dead a short time later.


Visibility to the rear of the tractor was good without leaning out of the protective structure of the cab. Apparently the victim simply leaned out while the tractor was moving and his head was caught between the FOPS and the conveyor support.


Order No. 7868279 was issued on November 5, 1998, under the provisions section 103 (k) of the Mine Act:

A miner was fatally injured at this operation on November 5, 1998, while cleaning up with a Gradall 544B material handler tractor in the screening plant area on the 900-foot level. This order prohibits use of the tractor to assure the safety of persons until the mine or the affected area can be returned to normal mining operations as determined by an authorized representative of the secretary. The operator shall obtain approval from an authorized representative for plans to recover and\or restore operations in the affected area.

This order was terminated on November 20, 1998 after it was determined that the mine could safely resume normal operation.


Cargill Salt

Charles Von Drousche, operations manager-mining
Gilford S. Elrod, mine superintendent
Randal K. Romero, department superintendent
Donald P. Pellerin, department superintendent

International Chemical Workers Union, local 27

Tony J. Romero, miners representative
Jimmy P. Boudreaux, miners representative

Iberia Parish, Coroner

James B. Falterman, Sr., M.D.F.A.A.F.P.

Arcadian Ambulance And Air Med. Services

Marilyn Marr, M.D.
Craig Arnaud, EMT-P
John Diehl, deputy sheriff

Mine Safety and Health Administration

Arthur L. Ellis, supervisory mine safety and health inspector
W. Dewayne Thompson, mine safety and health inspector
Ronald Medina, mechanical engineer, office of technical support

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98M46