Skip to content
MSHA - Fatal Investigation Report


Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Accident (Drowning)

Material Service Corporation Construction Department
I.D. No. UUD


Material Service Corporation
Federal Quarry
McCook, Cook County, Illinois
Mine I.D. No. 11-00068

December 7, 1998


Gerald D. Holeman
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Donald Stefaniak
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Jeffrey J. Ream
Civil Engineer

D. Michael Campbell
Civil Engineer

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse
515 W. First Street, #333
Duluth, MN 55802-1302

Felix A. Quintana
District Manager


Michael Roger Yates, construction laborer, age 41, drowned at about 9:45 p.m. on December 7, 1998, when a floating pump station capsized. Yates had four years and 11 months mining experience, 22 weeks as a laborer at this mine. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified of the accident at 12:15 a.m. on December 8, 1998, by a telephone call from the safety director for the mining company. An investigation was started the same day.

The Federal Quarry, a surface crushed stone operation, owned and operated by Material Service Corporation, was located at McCook, Cook County, Illinois. The principal operating official was James Goldberg, plant superintendent. The mine was normally operated two, 8- to 12-hour shifts a day, five to six days a week. A total of 46 persons was employed.

Limestone was drilled and blasted from multiple benches in the pit. Broken material was transported by truck to the primary crusher then conveyed from the quarry to an adjacent mill where it was screened and stockpiled for sale as construction aggregate.

The victim was employed by Material Service Corporation Construction Department, an independent contractor owned by the parent of the mining company. The contractor was located in Lyons, Illinois and performed work at various mines and at other industrial sites. The principal operating official was Robert Hubbard, Sr., director of construction. The contractor had worked at this mine for the past year performing various installation and maintenance functions. Two to six persons normally worked one, 8-hour shift a day, five days a week.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on March 16, 1998. Another inspection was conducted in conjunction with this investigation.


The accident occurred in the south quarry at the dewatering pump stations. Two floating pumps were positioned separately in approximately 22 feet of water at the lower end of the pit. Access to either station was provided by a single 40-foot long floating walkway. One end of the walkway was secured to shore and the opposite end was attached to the pump stations. Pulling on a rope caused the walkway to drift toward the pump station to be accessed.

The pump station involved in the accident measured 20 feet wide and 20 feet long. It consisted of two pontoons connected by steel supports. The pontoons were 4-foot diameter, 20-foot long pipes of 1/4-inch thick steel construction. The pontoons were filled with a marine flotation foam. Expanded metal was used for a deck with handrails and toeboards installed around its perimeter. A centrifugal pump, rated at 5,500 gallons per minute, was driven by an electric motor mounted on the deck inside a corrugated metal house.

Measurements of the water marks on the pontoons indicated that the pump station had previously listed approximately 3 degrees. Freeboard at the corners was 2.5 inches at the southeast, 12 inches at the northeast, 6.75 inches at the southwest, and 19 inches at the northwest.

The gross design weight capacity for the station, which included a 500 pound allowance for personnel, was 21,950 pounds. The weight of the pump station was 24,800 pounds, which did not include the weight of the discharge hose, electric supply cable, shack roof, water trapped in the pontoons, and the four workers. During recovery, 50 to 75 gallons of water drained from inside each pontoon through holes in the top of them as the pump station was removed from the pond. Based on the actual displacement of the pump station prior to the accident, as measured from water marks on the pontoons, the total weight was calculated to be approximately 26,640 pounds.

The pump station center of gravity was calculated using weights and locations of materials, equipment, and personnel on board. The center of buoyancy of the structure was calculated for a range of angles of trim. For this particular vessel, the center of gravity was above the center of buoyancy. Once the vessel tipped to the point where the center of gravity was closer to the low end of the vessel than the center of buoyancy was to the low end, an overturning movement was produced and the vessel began to capsize.

The second pump station was similar in size to the one which capsized, however it was constructed of three pontoons and was equipped with a different type pump and motor which weighed much less. An evaluation of this pump station was being conducted by the company.


On the day of the accident, Michael Yates (victim) reported to work at about 9:00 p.m., his regular starting time. He and James Zitnik, laborer, were assigned to install a guard on the V-belt drive at the dewatering pump. William Welch, foreman, noticed Yates and Zitnik approaching the pump station and decided their work assignment would provide him an opportunity to explain that facility to Robert Forsell, welder, as part of Forsell's indoctrination for his first day of employment.

Yates entered the pump house first, followed by Forsell, Welch, and Zitnik. As Zitnik entered the house, the station tipped and water covered their feet. They quickly moved out in reverse order into near waist deep water. The floating walkway had drifted about 10 feet away and Zitnik and Welch stepped into the water. Forsell was forced underwater by the capsizing station as he exited the pump house.

Zitnik swam to the walkway and then helped pull Welch aboard. They assisted Forsell aboard and then realized Yates had not surfaced. Zitnik left to summon help while Welch and Forsell remained at the scene.

Emergency personnel arrived a short time later and the victim was located by divers a few hours later. Death was attributed to drowning



The accident was caused by loading the pump station beyond its design capacity.


Material Service Corporation

Order No. 4318561 was issued on December 8, 1998, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of The Mine Act:

A fatal accident occurred at this operation on December 7, 1998, when a pontoon pump station capsized resulting in the drowning of a contract laborer. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this operation and prohibits all activity at the quarry pump station until MSHA has determined it is safe to resume normal operations in this area. The mine operator shall obtain approval from an authorized representative for all actions to recover and/or restore operation to the affected area.

The order was terminated on January 12, 1999, after it was determined that the affected area of the mine could return to normal operation.

Material Service Corporation Construction Department

Citation No. 7801255 was issued on January 12, 1999, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of The Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.14205:

A contract laborer drowned at this mine on December 7, 1998, when a pontoon pump station that he and three other miners were working on capsized. The station was used beyond its design capacity in that when the four men entered the pump house it began to sink on one side and then capsized.

This citation was terminated on January 12,1999 after the mine operator permanently removed this pump station from service as a floating unit.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98M49