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Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health


Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Drowning Accident
June 26, 2000

Coweta Sand & Transportation, Inc.
Coweta Sand & Transportation, Inc.
Coweta, Wagoner County, Oklahoma
ID No. 34-01847

Accident Investigators

Larry D. Slycord
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

W. DeWayne Thompson
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Larry Wilson, P.E.
Civil Engineer

Laman Lankford
Mine Safety and Health Specialist

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


On June 26, 2000, Bill J. Brownfield, dredge operator, age 59, drowned when the boat he was operating sank. Brownfield and a co-worker in the boat were trying to repair a cable that held the dredge in place on the river, when the swift current forced the shallow boat under the cable causing it to fill with water. As the boat sank, the co-worker grabbed debris and floated to safety. Brownfield was swept downstream with no means of flotation assistance. His body was found the following day.

The accident occurred because the boat was inadequate for river conditions at the time of the accident. The victim was not wearing a life jacket, which contributed to the severity of the injuries.

Brownfield had a total of 40 years mining experience including six years as a dredge mechanic and two weeks at this mine. This was his first day as the dredge operator at this mine. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.


Coweta Sand & Transportation, Inc., a surface sand dredging operation associated with an on-shore screening plant, owned and operated by Coweta Sand & Transportation, Inc., was located four miles west of Coweta, Wagoner County, Oklahoma on the west bank of the Arkansas River. The principal operating official was Fred G. Jones, president. The mine normally operated one shift, nine hours a day, five days a week. Total employment was four persons.

Sand was dredged from the river bottom and pumped through a 10-inch pipe to the screening plant on the bank. The sand was then separated and stockpiled as concrete, masonry and fill sand. The finished product was sold to customers.

The mine began dredging operations on January 1, 2000. Dredging had been intermittent prior to the day of the accident due to problems with the dredge motor.

A regular inspection of this mine commenced on July 25, 2000, following this investigation. Mine Safety and Health Administration had not been notified of the mine's existence until the accident was reported.


On the day of the accident, Bill Brownfield (victim) reported for work at 7:00 a.m., his normal starting time. He used a 14-foot jon (flat-bottomed) boat and transported himself to access the dredge, where he began to dredge sand. At about 8:00 a. m., the dredge ran out of fuel. Brownfield returned to the shore and picked up Kelly Metcalf, mechanic/loader operator, and they returned to the dredge to refuel. Metcalf got the dredge running about 9:00 a.m. Brownfield took Metcalf back to the bank and then returned to the dredge.

At about 12:00 p.m. Metcalf heard Brownfield on the radio reporting that an anchor cable had broken on the west (port) side of the dredge. Jerry Hulse, plant supervisor, directed Metcalf to assist Brownfield in repairing the cable.

Brownfield returned to shore and picked up Metcalf. They headed up the river to the end of the cable that was attached to a concrete block on the bank. Brownfield operated the boat from the rear. Metcalf was seated ahead of him, handling the cable from the right side of the boat. Their plan was to follow the cable downstream until they found the loose end, then tie two empty 30-pound Freon tanks to it.

As they proceeded away from the bank at about 12:10 p.m., the bow of the boat slid under the cable. The river current pushed the boat further under the cable. As the cable slid over the top of the boat toward the rear, it began to force the boat under the water.

Metcalf stepped over the cable as it neared the center of the boat. The cable caught Brownfield's right hip just as Brownfield rolled out of the boat. Grabbing the right edge of the boat, he started to work his way toward the bow, hand over hand. Metcalf reached for him just as the boat sank.

Brownfield and Metcalf were not wearing life jackets. When Metcalf surfaced, he grabbed the two empty Freon tanks. He was about 25 feet from the bank, but the current was taking him further out into the river. Brownfield and Metcalf grasped the 10-inch sand discharge pipe extending from the dredge to the bank. Fearing the current would pull him under it, Metcalf let go of the pipe and was again swept downstream.

Metcalf last saw the victim trying to swim to shore as the current swept him toward the center of the river. Metcalf reached the bank of the river about half a mile downstream by grabbing a floating dead tree lodged against the bank.

Vicki West, office manager, summoned emergency personnel who arrived shortly and began searching for the victim. The Coweta Fire Department and Oklahoma Highway Patrol recovered the body of the victim downstream approximately 1.5 miles on June 27, 2000. Death was attributed to drowning.


MSHA was notified of the accident at 4:40 p.m. on June 26, 2000 by a telephone call from Vicki West, office manager, to Arthur L. Ellis, supervisory mine safety and health inspector. An investigation was started the same day. An order was issued under the provisions of 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of the miners. MSHA conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management and mine employees. The miners did not request nor have representation during the investigation.


The accident occurred about 25 feet from the west bank of the Arkansas River. It was about 200 yards wide at this point. The river was swollen due to recent rains. The depth of the river at the scene of the accident was six to eight feet. The current was estimated to be flowing at a rate of 11,200 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the time. The normal status of the river at that location was about the same depth and width, but with a flow rate of 4500 cfs. Flow rate was controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Keystone Reservoir, upstream from the accident location.
� The aluminum flat-bottomed jon boat involved in the accident measured 13 feet 9 inches long, 4 feet 9 inches wide at the rear, 3 feet 2 inches wide at the front, and the rear of the boat was 15 inches high from the bottom to the top edge. The Lowe Lake brand boat (VIN OMCL1418E696) was equipped with a six- horsepower Mercury rear-mounted outboard engine, model # J6REDD, S/N G03B07438. The boat was rated for 395 lb. or three people. Loaded with the two men at the time of the accident, the rear of the boat would have been approximately 12 inches above the water's surface. According to the office manager, Vicki West, the jon boat was identical to the boat used at the same company's dredging operation (ID No. 34-00892) across the river. She had been with Coweta for 18 months, and was not aware of any previous mishaps or "near misses" involving either boat.
� The dredge was an Ellicott, Model 10" SD319H20, serial number 26125-3. It measures 40 feet long by 16 feet wide, and was powered by a V-12 Detroit diesel engine. At full capacity, it pumped 250 tons of sand per hour through a 10-inch discharge pipe to the plant on shore. The dredge was normally anchored approximately 100 yards off shore.
� The dredge was anchored by two �-inch cables. Each was approximately 200 yards in length, which included slack length on the reels. One cable extended from the port side of the dredge to the west bank and was attached to a concrete block 3 x 4 x 2 feet in size. The cable on the starboard side was attached to an anchor out in the river toward the east.
� The operator had no written training records or policy pertaining to the wearing of life jackets. Interviews with employees verified that the practice of wearing life jackets was not being consistently followed. There were no jackets in the boat and none were worn by the two miners at the time of the accident.
� During the period of February 1990 to January 1997, Fred Jones managed a dredging operation, Coweta Sand Company, ID No. 34-00892, on the east side of the Arkansas River. On February 22, 1994, he attended training given by an MSHA inspector on the safe operation of dredges. Jerry Hulse was also listed as the responsible party on legal identity report of that mine. During that period the operator received 21 MSHA citations for various safety violations. None of the citations were for violations of 56.15020 (wearing life jackets) or 56.18006 (new employee training). In 1997, the mine changed ownership and Fred Jones was notified by MSHA of the need to file a legal identity report prior to startup of the new operation.

The root cause of the accident was management's failure to provide a boat adequate for the swift river conditions at the time of the accident. Failure to wear life jackets while in the boat contributed to the severity of the accident. Also contributing to the accident was lack of adequate training.


Order No. 7896638 was issued on June 26, 2000, under provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
A fatal drowning occurred at this mine site on June 26th, 2000, while two men were attempting to repair a � inch 6X25 IWRC galvanized wire anchor cable that broke on the port side of the company's production dredge. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this operation until the affected areas of the mine 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 all actions for recovery of the victim, equipment, and or restore operations in the affected area. Only official personnel shall be in the affected area as deemed necessary.
This order was modified on June 28, 2000, to allow the dredge anchor cable to be repaired. The order was terminated on June 29, 2000, after it was determined that the mine could safely resume normal operations.

Citation No. 7881614 was issued on August 26, 2000, under provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.14205:
On June 26, 2000, a fatality occurred at this operation when two employees were attempting to repair a broken cable. The jon boat that was being used was being used beyond its designed capacity with the river flowing higher and faster than normal because of the recent rain fall prior to the accident. The small jon boat was only 15 inches deep and when the cable got over the top of the boat, it allowed the rear of the boat to be pushed down under the water level and submerged the boat. Using a small boat beyond its capacity would result in injuries to people.
This citation was terminated on August 26, 2000. The operator bought a new and larger boat with a larger engine to be used on the river.

Citation No. 7881615 was issued on August 26, 2000, under provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.15020:
On June 26, 2000, a fatality occurred at this operation when two employees were attempting to repair a broken cable from the dredge to the bank while working from a small jon boat. There was no life jackets in the small boat for use while the two men were working in the boat on the river. This condition would result in injuries to people from drowning.
This citation was terminated on August 26, 2000. The operator purchased new life jackets to be worn at all times while in the boat on the river.

Citation No. 7881616 was issued on August 26, 2000, under provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.18006:
On June 26, 2000, a fatality occurred at this mine operation when two employees were attempting to repair a broken cable from a small jon boat. The mine operator failed to indoctrinate employees in the safe rules and safe work procedures for repairing the broken cable from the boat. This condition would result in injuries to employee and to others not trained in safe work procedures.
This citation was terminated on August 26, 2000. The operator has retrained employees in safe procedures to be used in repairing the broken cable from the dredge to the bank.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB2000M26


A. Persons Participating in the Investigation

B. Persons Interviewed


Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Lake Patrol
Larry D. Norman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . trooper
Blakely R. Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . trooper
Coweta Fire Department
James A. Ginn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . fire chief
Randy D. Woodward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .driver
State of Oklahoma Department of Mines, Minerals Division
Douglas J. Schooley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . administrator of minerals division
Roy E. Tacket . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . assistant mine inspector
Rob L. Franks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . assistant mine inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Larry D. Slycord . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .supervisory mine safety and health inspector
W. DeWayne Thompson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .mine safety and health inspector
Larry Wilson, P.E. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .civil engineer
Laman Lankford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .mine safety and health specialist


Coweta Sand & Transportation, Inc.
Jerry E. Hulse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . plant supervisor
Kelly L. Metcalf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . mechanic
Vicki West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .office manager
Dewitt C. Brown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .truck foreman