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Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health


Surface Nonmetal Mine
(Dimension Stone)

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

May 5, 2001

Paul B. Meeker (B987)
Laceyville, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania

Ellis Farm Mine
Laceyville, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania
I.D. No. 36-08983

Accident Investigators

Dennis A. Yesko
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Victor C. Lescznske
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Patrick W. Flinton
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Douglas M. Smith
Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Michael P. Shaughnessy
Mechanical Engineer

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Northeastern District
547 Keystone Dr., Suite 400; Warrendale, Pennsylvania 15086-7573
James R. Petrie, District Manager


Paul B. Meeker, contract mechanic, age 58, was fatally injured on May 5, 2001, when he was pinned beneath the boom and fork attachment of a skid-steer loader that he was repairing. The accident occurred because the boom of the loader had been fully raised and had not been blocked to prevent accidental lowering.

Meeker had three days maintenance experience at this mine. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 46.


Ellis Farm Mine, a dimension stone operation, owned and operated by Charles W. Ellis, was located north of State Rt. 6, off Rt. 4009, near Laceyville, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. The principal operating official was Duane J. Scott Jr., superintendent. The mine normally operated one, 8-hour shift a day, 5 days a week. Total employment was 4 persons.

A single bench was developed by stripping back overburden with a Caterpillar 944L track loader. Broken pieces of bluestone (flagstone) were hand picked and stacked on pallets. Unbroken stone was cut in place into sections of various sizes with a portable Meco 65-gas powered saw. Once the stone was cut, it was pried loose of the strata with bars. The thickness of the sections ranged from about 1/4" to 2" thick. Some of the cut stone was hand split with a hammer or was sized using a table saw. It was then hand stacked on pallets and loaded onto trucks with a skid-steer loader for shipment to distributors.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration had not been notified of the mine's existence until the accident was reported.

Paul B. Meeker, a self-employed mechanic, resided at Laceyville, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. Meeker had been hired by Scott to repair the left front axle seal of the New Holland L-783 skid-steer loader and had performed various maintenance tasks at the mine on two prior occasions.


On Saturday, May 5, 2001, the day of the accident, Paul Meeker (victim) arrived at the mine site sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Scott and Arthur Allen, stone stacker, were at the quarry when Meeker arrived. Shortly before noon, Scott became ill and asked Allen to drive him home. As they started to leave the quarry, Scott noticed Meeker get into his truck and back up. Scott assumed Meeker was also leaving the mine and told him to lock the chain at the entrance of the mine on his way out. Upon reaching the mine entrance approximately one-half mile from the quarry, Scott did not see Meeker behind them. However, they did not wait for Meeker, and Allen proceeded to drive Scott home.

The following morning around 7:00 a.m., Scott and Allen returned to the mine and found the chain at the entrance unlocked. They proceeded to the quarry and found Meeker face down on the ground, under the fork attachment of the skid-steer loader. Scott checked Meeker for vital signs and found none. They immediately traveled back to the mine entrance where Allen remained, while Scott ran to the nearby home of Charles Ellis, mine owner. Scott notified Ellis of the accident and Ellis called 911. Local paramedics and state police arrived shortly thereafter. Meeker was pronounced dead at the scene by the local coroner at 8:40 a.m., on May 6, 2001. The cause of death was asphyxiation.


MSHA was notified of the accident at 9:00 a.m. on May 7, 2001, by a telephone call from a mine operator, to Randall R. Gadway, supervisory mine inspector. An investigation was started the same day. The Pennsylvania State Police from Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania were the first responders at the accident scene on May 6, 2001, and impounded the skid-steer loader as evidence. MSHA's accident investigators traveled to the state police barracks, made a physical examination of the skid-steer loader, interviewed employees at the mine site, and reviewed conditions and work procedures at the time of the accident. The miners did not request nor have representation during the investigation.


The machine involved in the accident was a Ford New Holland L-783 skid-steer loader equipped with a fork lift attachment. It was manufactured in 1991 and was powered by a Ford 3-cylinder, 60-horsepower diesel engine. The engine drives a pump that powers all the hydraulic system components of the machine including the wheel tram motors, boom lift cylinders, and tilt cylinders. The boom on the skid-steer loader was supported by two lift arms. The raising and lowering of the lift arms was controlled by a pair of double acting hydraulic cylinders.

The hydraulic line for the top of the left and right side boom lift cylinders and the corresponding control valve was found disconnected. Disconnecting this line would cause the boom lift arms to lower slowly, depending on the amount of hydraulic fluid that leaked around the cylinder piston seals and escaped through this open line.

The hydraulic line for the bottom of the left boom lift cylinder was also found disconnected at a tee where it and the right side lift cylinder hydraulic line connected to a seat activated solenoid valve. With the boom arms raised and this hydraulic line disconnected, the consequent loss of pressure in both of the boom lift cylinders would allow the boom lift arms to fall quickly. A 7/8-inch female swivel hex nut fitting on the line had been unscrewed from its mating male nipple fitting on the tee. A 7/8-inch wrench was found underneath Meeker.

The boom arms and fork attachment had an estimated weight of approximately 700-800 pounds.

The skid-steer loader was equipped with two, 1-3/8 inch diameter by approximately 4-inch long, steel boom stop pins that were located on the left and right side of the machine. They were extended and retracted by a control lever located in the operator's compartment. When extended, the stop pins would support the boom arms in the raised position. No defects were found in the operation of the boom stop pin system. The pins were found in their retracted position at the time of the accident.


The root cause of the accident was the failure to follow procedures that required raised components of mobile equipment to be secured prior to working on or around the equipment.


Citation No. 7737909 was issued on May 7, 2001, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for a violation of 30 CFR 56.14211(c):
A fatal accident occurred at this mine on May 5, 2001, when a contract mechanic was in the process of repairing the left front axle seal on a New Holland L-783 skid-steer loader. The boom/forks of the skid-steer loader had been extended to a fully raised position and were not blocked against hazardous motion. The hydraulic line for the pressure side of the lift cylinders was disconnected causing a sudden release of hydraulic pressure, allowing the boom/forks to fall pinning the victim against the ground.
This citation was terminated on May 15, 2001. The contractor was self-employed and as a result of his death his business no longer exists.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB00M13


Persons Participating in the Investigation

Ellis Farm Mine
Charles W. Ellis .......... Owner
Duane J. Scott Jr. .......... Superintendent
New Holland North America, Inc.
James R. Leonard .......... Service engineer
Pennsylvania State Police, Tunkhannock, PA.
Anthony Morelli .......... Corporal, Crime Unit Supervisor
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Colleen B. Stutzman .......... Surface Mine Conservation Inspector Ssupervisor
James McKenna .......... Surface Mine Conservation Inspector
Mine Safety & Health Administration
Dennis A. Yesko .......... Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Victor C. Lescznske .......... Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Patrick W. Flinton .......... Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Douglas M. Smith .......... Mine Safety and Health Specialist
Michael P. Shaughnessy .......... Mechanical Engineer

Persons Interviewed

Charles W. Ellis .......... Mine Owner
Duane J. Scott Jr. .......... Superintendent
Arthur Allen .......... Stone Stacker
James J. Nolan .......... Stone Stacker
Michael Golay .......... Trooper, Pennsylvania State Police