Skip to content
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Report of Investigation

Surface Nonmetal Mine
(Sand and Gravel)

Fatal Falling, Rolling, or Sliding Rock/Material Accident
December 19, 2000

Dupont Pit
Glacier Northwest
Dupont, Pierce County, WA
ID No. 45-03334

Accident Investigators

Collin R. Galloway
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Randall L. Cardwell
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Gharib Ibrahim
Civil Engineer

Emmett Sullivan
Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Western District
2060 Peabody Road, Suite 610
Vacaville, CA 95687
Lee D. Ratliff, District Manager


On December 19, 2000, Alan H. Davis, general foreman, age 53, was fatally injured when he was struck by a concrete block that fell from a retaining wall.

The accident occurred because of the failure to identify the exact location of a leaking water pipe prior to excavation.

Davis had 28 years mine experience, 19 years experience with this company, and had been the general foreman at this mine for almost seven years. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 46.


The Dupont Pit, a surface sand and gravel mine owned and operated by Glacier Northwest, was located at 4301 Pioneer Avenue, Dupont, Pierce County, Washington. Principal operating officials were Ronald Summers, General Manager, and Scott Nicholson, Superintendent. The mine operated three, 8-hour shifts a day, five days a week. Total employment was fifty one persons.

Sand and gravel was mined using front-end loaders. The material was transported by truck to the main dump site where it was crushed, screened, and stockpiled. Finished material was shipped to customers by truck and barge for use as construction aggregate.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on December 27, 1999. Another inspection was conducted following this investigation.


On the day of the accident, Alan H. Davis (victim) reported for work at 6:30 a.m., his normal starting time. At 7:00 a.m., Mark Snyder, excavation foreman, Andrew Neuser, shop foreman, Terry Gallion, backhoe operator, and Davis began working to locate a leaking water pipe. Several days prior to the accident, the ground near the edge of the 7-inch minus stockpile became saturated with water, apparently from a broken water pipe. It was thought that the leak was located where a buried 24-inch pipe connected to a smaller pipe.

The crew proceeded to dig a five foot deep hole adjacent to the stockpile retaining wall. During the excavation process, Snyder used a piece of pipe to probe through the water covering the bottom of the hole to assist in locating the buried pipe. Gallion operated the backhoe while Neuser and Davis observed the work. At 11:55 a.m., Snyder laid the pipe down and went to start the pump to drain water from the hole. Davis picked up the pipe, walked around to the stockpile side of the hole, and began probing the hole. The retaining wall started to tip and Gallion yelled at Davis to get out of the way. Davis was not able to avoid the falling wall blocks and became pinned under a half block that fell into the hole on top of him.

Snyder and Neuser immediately jumped into the hole to assist Davis. Scott Nicholson, superintendent, and Michael Oatman, electrician, arrived shortly. Snyder attempted to keep Davis' head out of the water while a chain was attached to the backhoe to lift the block off his chest. Once Davis was freed, cardiopulmonary resuscitation was begun until emergency personnel arrived. Davis was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Death was attributed to massive crushing injuries.


MSHA was notified of the accident on December 19, 2000, at 12:30 p.m., by a telephone call from Paul Frederick, corporate safety manager, Glacier Northwest, to Stephen Cain, supervisory mine safety and health inspector. An investigation was started on the same day. An order was issued pursuant to Section 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of miners. An MSHA accident investigation team traveled to the mine, conducted an inspection of the accident site, interviewed miners, and reviewed appropriate training and work procedure documents. The investigation was conducted with the assistance of management and mine employees. The miners were represented by Local 612, International Union of Operating Engineers.


� The accident occurred in the stockpile area of the plant adjacent to the 7-inch minus stockpile. A water leak had been detected two to three weeks before the accident and was thought to be located adjacent to the stockpile where the 22-inch diameter water line connected to the 24-inch diameter water line.

� A retaining wall that restrained the stock pile was located on one side and northeast of the leaking water pipe. The wall was constructed of three rows of twelve, full sized, concrete "ecology" blocks, and three half blocks. Each wall course consisted of four full blocks and one half block placed end-to-end. The wall was almost six feet high and twenty seven feet long. A full block weighed approximately 3300 pounds, measured six feet long, twenty-three inches thick, and twenty-three inches high. Half blocks were three feet long and were the same height and thickness as the full blocks. The half blocks weighed approximately 1650 pounds.

� The bottom course of four blocks remained in place after the accident. However, the front edge of the blocks had settled into the ground nearly 18 inches which made the blocks lean at a 45 degree angle.

� The crew who had moved the wall prior to the accident said that the ground where it was relocated appeared to be level and solid. Crew members excavating the hole on the day of the accident were not aware that the ground beneath the wall had become saturated with water prior to the accident.

� A hole, approximately five feet deep, six feet wide, and twelve feet long, had been excavated with a backhoe west of and adjacent to the stockpile above the junction of the two water pipes. The edge of the excavated hole was approximately 60 inches from the retaining wall. Material excavated on the day of the accident was dumped behind the wall. This material was comprised of fine sand and gravel which was saturated with water and piled close to the top of the wall. A crew of employees had moved the stockpile and retaining wall twelve feet back from it's original position five days prior to the accident to provide access to locate the leaking water pipe.


The root cause of the accident was the failure to conduct a line identification survey to determine the exact location of the buried pipeline prior to excavation. Placing the wet, excavated material directly behind the retaining wall was a contributing factor.


Order No. 7990374 was issued on December 19, 2000, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on December 19, 2000, when concrete blocks slid down a bank and knocked the general foreman into a hole. This order is issued to assure the safety of all persons at this operation until MSHA has determined that it is safe to resume normal mining operations. The mine operator shall obtain approval from an authorized representative for all actions to recover or restore operations to the affected area.
This order was terminated on December 22, 2000, after it was determined that normal mining operations could resume.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB2000M48


Persons Participating in the Investigation Glacier Northwest
Scott Nicholson .......... mine superintendent
Paul Frederick .......... safety manager
Mark Snyder .......... excavation foreman
Andrew Neuser .......... shop foreman
Terry Gallion .......... equipment operator
International Union of Operating Engineers
Local 612
Michael Oatman .......... shop steward
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Collin R. Galloway .......... supervisory mine safety and health inspector
Randall L. Cardwell .......... mine safety and health inspector
Gharib Ibrahim .......... civil engineer
Emmett Sullivan .......... mine safety and health specialist

Persons Interviewed

Glacier Northwest
Scott Nicholson .......... mine superintendent
Paul Frederick .......... safety manager
Mark Snyder .......... excavation foreman
Andrew Neuser .......... shop foreman
Terry Gallion .......... equipment operator
Michael Oatman .......... electrician
David Day .......... equipment operator
David Ertler .......... swing shift foreman
John Barich .......... mechanic/electrician
George Gunstone .......... equipment operator
Marshal Hensick .......... equipment operator