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Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Underground Metal Mine

Fatal Poisoning Accident

San Juan Claim,
Al Meyers Owner
Socorro, Socorro County, New Mexico
I.D. No. 29-02185

May 19,1999


Jerry Millard
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Omer H. Sauvageau
Mine Safety & Health Inspector

Lloyd B. Ferran
Mine Safety & Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety & Health Administration
South Central District
1100 Commerce St. Room 4C50
Dallas, TX 75242-0499
Doyle D. Fink
District Manager


Roger P. Kelly, Co-owner/Miner, age 49, was fatally injured at about 11:25 a.m., on May 19, 1999, when he was poisoned by carbon monoxide gas while he was hand mucking material at the bottom of a mine shaft.

The accident occurred because the shaft was not sufficiently ventilated to remove the toxic gases prior to Kelly entering the mine.

Kelly had a total of 18 years mining experience, 3 years at this mine. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.


The San Juan Claim, a shaft development operation, owned and operated by Al Meyers Owner, was located 35 miles southwest of Socorro, Socorro County, New Mexico. The principal operating official was Al Meyers, owner of the registered mining claim and operation plan to develope and operate the mine within the Cibola National Forest. The mine was normally operated one, 8-hour shift a day, five days a week. Total employment was three persons.

A vertical shaft had been sunk by drilling and blasting. Broken rock was loaded into a bucket conveyance by hand and then hoisted to the surface.

The shaft development was started approximately two and one-half years prior to the accident. The Mine Safety & Health Administration had not been notified of the mine's existence until the accident was reported.


On the day of the accident, Roger Kelly (victim), and Al Meyers, co-owner reported for work at 10:00 a.m. Hilton Knight, coworker, had arrived at the shaft at 9:50 a.m., and started the generator, and the ventilation fan.

A blast had been detonated at the end of the prior work day. Soon after arriving, Kelly entered the shaft, stopped at the last cutout ledge about 60 feet off the bottom, and lowered the vent tube to the shaft bottom. He arrived at the bottom of the shaft about 11:00 a.m., and started hand mucking the blasted material. Kelly loaded two buckets of material and sent them to the surface.

While the bucket was being lowered at approximately 11:25 a.m., Kelly jerked the rope three times as a distress signal. Al Meyers, co-owner, received Kelly's signal, went to the vent tube which was also used for communications and yelled to Kelly to see if anything was wrong. Kelly's only response was "uh - uh."

Meyers hoisted the bucket conveyance out of the shaft, and replaced it with the personnel conveyance and lowered it to Kelly. Kelly was only hoisted a few feet when the conveyance suddenly hung up. Knight then repelled down the shaft and found Kelly wedged in the shaft approximately 6 to 8 feet off the bottom. He checked Kelly for vital signs and finding none returned to the surface to summon help.

The New Mexico State Police were notified at about 12:35 p.m. They responded to the scene and organized a rescue team but were unsuccessful in their attempts to recover the victim. On May 20, 1999, the Albuquerque Fire Department along with a rescue team from a mining company again were unsuccessful in their attempts to reach Kelly because of the restricted dimensions of the shaft.

On May 21,1999, two miners entered the shaft and rigged a harness assembly to the victim who was brought to the surface at about 5:40 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the state medical examiner. Death was attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning.


MSHA was notified at 7:00 a.m., on May 20, 1999 by a telephone call from Gilbert Miera, New Mexico state mine inspector to Doyle D. Fink, district manager. An investigation was started the same day. MSHA's investigation team traveled to the mine and immediately joined the rescue efforts which were in progress. An order was issued pursuant to Section 103 (K) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of miners.


1. The accident occurred in the San Juan Claim mine shaft. The shaft measured 2 feet by 3 feet and was sunk vertical to a depth of 240 feet. This small shaft size prevented rescue personnel wearing self-contained breathing apparatus from getting to the victim. The collar and first 8 feet of the shaft was lined with wood. Wooden ladders extended down the shaft approximately 30 feet. There were 2 foot long ledges cut into one side of the shaft wall at various depths which provided footing for a person to stand. The first ledge was approximately 75 feet from the surface, and the last ledge was reported to be 60 feet off the bottom.

2. The shaft head frame was constructed of three vertical 1 1/4 - inch square lengths of steel tubing. Two cross members were welded which connected the steel tubing across the top about 8 feet above the shaft collar. The hoist rope ran through a sheave block suspended on another cross member installed a foot below the welded members to enable the personnel conveyance or mucking bucket to be hoisted above the shaft collar.

3. A MYTE electric powered winch hoist, Model No.300 A/FS, rated at 800 pounds single line lift, and 1600 pounds double line lift, was secured to the wood frame of the shaft collar. The electric hoist was rated at 115 Volts, 60 hertz 1 phase, with no load 6 amps and full load 19 amps. A 3/4 inch polypropylene rope was used on the hoist to raise and lower equipment, muck and personnel.

4. An 8 - inch diameter PVC pipe bucket, 30 inches deep, was attached to the rope for hoisting blasted muck out of the shaft.

5. The personnel conveyance was fabricated from steel pipe with elbows and reducers at each end. A wire rope was fed through the pipe with elbows and attached with clips to form a triangular shaped bail making it possible for a person to stand on its bottom.

6. A Generac, SVP-5000 Model, portable gas powered generator was rated 120/240 volts, 41.7/20.8 amps, 5000 watts, 60 Hertz, 1 phase at 3600 RPM. The generator was located about 29 feet away from the shaft, and was used to provide the 115 volt electricity needed to operate the hoist, drill and battery charger.

7. An Attwood, Turbo 4000 model, marine type suction fan powered by a 12 volt battery was used to ventilate the shaft.This fan was located inside the shaft about 3 feet below the collar.

8. Three inch diameter corrugated polypropylene tubing was attached to the fan and extended to the bottom of the shaft. A 6 - foot section of this tubing extended from the fan to the surface for exhausting the air. A 20 - foot length of tubing had been added at the bottom on May 18,1999.

9. A Makita, electric powered, hammer drill was used to drill the blast holes. A round consisted of three 1-1/4 - inch diameter holes, 3 foot deep, each containing two sticks of 40% dynamite initiated by electric delay blasting caps. The blast was detonated from the surface using the battery.

10. The carbon monoxide in the mine shaft was produced by the explosives that had been detonated at the end of the shift from the day prior to the accident. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that when breathed in high enough concentrations can result in death. Without effective ventilation throughout the shaft, Kelly would have been exposed to concentrations of carbon monoxide gas each time he entered and worked in the shaft following a blast. The toxicology report from the New Mexico State Medical Examiners office showed the victim had 43.5% carbon monoxide in his blood resulting in acute carbon monoxide poisoning.


The accident occurred because the mine operator failed to ventilate the entire mine work areas prior to persons going underground. The mine operator's failure to conduct tests for air quality prior to entering the shaft after blasting was a contributing factor to the accident. Failure to provide safe access into and out of the mine shaft contributed to the severity of the accident.


Order No.7866504 was issued on May 21, 1999, under the provisions of Section 103 (K) of the Mine Act.
A fatal accident occurred at the San Juan Claim mine at about 11:00 a.m., on May 19,1999, when a miner was being hoisted from the bottom of a mine shaft. The miner was found with no vital signs near the bottom of the shaft after attempts to hoist him failed. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this operation until the mine or effected areas can be returned to normal operations as determined by an authorized representative of the Secretary. The mine operator shall obtain approval from an authorized representative for all actions to recover persons, equipment and/or return affected areas of the mine to normal.
This order was terminated on June 15, 1999. Conditions that contributed to the accident have been corrected and the mine was shut down.

Citation No. 7866514 was issued on May 22, 1999 under the provisions of Section 104 a of the Mine Act for violation of 57. 11001.
A fatal accident occurred at the San Juan Claim at approximately 11:00 A.M. on May 19, 1999, when a miner was working at the bottom of the mine shaft. The miner was found with no vital signs near the bottom of the shaft after an attempt to hoist him out failed. Safe access was not provided into or out of the San Juan Claim mine shaft. The 2' by 3' shaft was approximately 240' deep. Persons going into the shaft, were either lowered by an electric winch or repelled down the shaft. The shaft was being sunk, and no other way was provided to get to the bottom. The shaft dimensions did not allow for safe access of persons.
Citation No. 7866519 was issued May 22, 1999 under the provisions of Section 104 a of the Mine Act for violation of 57.5002.
A fatal accident occurred at the San Juan Claim at approximately 11:00 A.M. on May 19, 1999, when a miner was working at the bottom of the mine shaft. The miner was found with no vital signs near the bottom of the shaft after an attempt to hoist him out had failed. The toxicology report from the New Mexico state medical examiners office showed the victim had 43.5% carbon monoxide in his blood, indicating acute carbon monoxide poisoning. Gas detection monitoring was not performed to determine if the air was free of contaminants.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB99M29


Persons participating in the investigation:

San Juan Claim

Al Meyers, co-owner
Hinton Knight, miner
New Mexico State Police
Shane Arthur, officer
Alex Horcasitas, officer
New Mexico State Mine Inspections
Gilbert Miera, mine inspector
Phil Kozushko, Administration
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Jerry Millard, supervisor
Lloyd Ferran, inspector
Omer Savageau, inspector