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Surface Nonmetal Mine
(Crushed Limestone)

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

January 24, 2002

County Quarry
Sevier County Highway Department
Sevierville, Sevier County, Tennessee
Mine I.D. No. 40-00088

Accident Investigators

Joel B. Richardson
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Steve J. Kirkland
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Southeast District
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 212; Birmingham, AL 35209
Martin Rosta, District Manager


Jimmy R. Tinker, load-out bin operator, age 62, was fatally injured on January 24, 2002, when he was struck by the bucket of a front-end loader.

The accident occurred in a heavy rainstorm, which restricted visibility. The front-end loader operator apparently struck the victim with the bucket of the loader as the victim was crossing the road.

Tinker had a total of 20 years, 9 months mining experience, all at this operation. He had 18 years experience as a bin operator. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 46.


County Quarry, a crushed limestone operation, owned and operated by Sevier County Highway Department, was located at 139 County Garage Road, 4 miles north of Sevierville, Sevier County, Tennessee. The principal operating official was Jonas Smelcer, superintendent of roads. The mine was normally operated one, 8-hour shift a day, three to five days a week. Total employment was six persons.

Limestone was drilled and blasted, loaded into trucks and hauled to the crusher where it was crushed, washed, screened, sized and stockpiled. The finished product was used by the county for road construction and repairs.

The last regular inspection at this operation was completed on October 18, 2001. A regular inspection was conducted following the investigation.


On the day of the accident, Jimmy R. Tinker (victim) arrived at the mine site at 7:00 a.m., 30 minutes before his normal starting time. At about 7:30 a.m., Tinker and Terry Hatcher, truck driver, went to the load-out bins where Tinker started the heater in the building. He and Hatcher then traveled in Hatcher's truck to the pit to see if rock would be crushed that day.

Because of a heavy rainstorm, the decision was made not to crush rock. Tinker and Hatcher were instructed to empty the load-out bins before leaving for the day. After returning to the bins, Tinker filled Hatcher's truck and told Hatcher to dump the rock on the No. 2 stockpile.

Ralph Whaley, supervisor/front-end loader operator, drove by the load-out bins in his loader and saw Tinker loading Hatcher's truck. Whaley continued on to the cold mix asphalt stockpile where he loaded one truck, then returned with the loader. As he passed the load-out bins he saw Hatcher dumping his load of material at the stockpile.

At about 8:15 a.m., Hatcher returned to the load-out bin turnaround. He proceeded to back the truck under the bin but did not see Tinker, who was normally outside the shack to direct him as he backed under the bin. Hatcher then saw Tinker lying face up near the roadway in a shallow ditch and drove his truck to the No. 1 stockpile where Whaley and Scott Douglas, truck driver, were working. Douglas immediately went to Tinker and checked for vital signs but was unable to detect any. He then radioed the office to summon emergency assistance. A few minutes later, emergency personnel arrived and Tinker was transported to a local medical center where he was pronounced dead. Death was attributed to internal injuries consistent with being hit with the bucket of a front-end-loader.


MSHA was notified of the accident at 8:45 a.m. on January 24, 2002, by a telephone call from Lillard Allen, county garage supervisor, to MSHA's safety division in Arlington, Virginia. The information was forwarded to the Southeastern District and an investigation was started that day. An order was issued under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Act to ensure the safety of miners. MSHA's accident investigators traveled to the mine, made a physical inspection of the accident scene, interviewed employees, and reviewed conditions and work procedures relevant to the accident. MSHA conducted the investigation with the assistance of both mine management and employees. The miners did not request nor have representation during the investigation.


  • The accident occurred on the plant roadway, adjacent to the load-out bins. The road was approximately 15 feet wide and contained a shallow drainage ditch about two feet wide between the roadway and the adjacent berm.

  • The front-end loader involved in the accident was a 1985 Michigan/Clark model 125C and weighed approximately 42,000 pounds.

  • The loader bucket was approximately 10 feet wide and extended slightly beyond the width of the tires. In the normal tram position, the top of the bucket was approximately 6-1/2 feet above ground level. When the bucket was in a tram position, there was a blind spot of 11 feet in front of the bucket.

  • The loader was inspected and there were no safety defects found.

  • It had been raining heavily since early morning on the day of the accident. The cab of the loader was equipped with a windshield, side windows and a rear window. The windshield wipers were functional and were being used at the time of the accident. The windshield was partially fogged over due to the rain. Headlights were functional but were not being used.

  • The load-out bin building had a tin roof. The noise created from the rain hitting the roof could have interfered with Tinker's ability to hear the loader.

  • It is believed that Tinker had walked across the road to watch Hatcher as he was dumping his load of material. Whaley apparently hit Tinker with the bucket of the loader as he was returning from the cold mix asphalt stockpile. Because of the heavy rain the windows of the loader were fogged and Whaley did not see Tinker nor did he realize his loader had struck anything.


    The root cause of the accident was restricted visibility due to the heavy rain that was falling at the time the accident occurred. Contributing to the accident may have been the inability of the victim to hear the loader because of the rain hitting the tin roof on the load-out building.


    Order No. 778781 was issued on January 24, 2002, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:

    An employee was found lying on the ground about 40 feet from the crusher run storage bin. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this operation until the mine or affected 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 of the Secretary for all actions to recover equipment, and/or return affected areas of the mine to normal.

    This order was terminated on January 25, 2002. Employees have been retrained in the hazards encountered while operating equipment during inclement weather.

    Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
    Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB02M05


    Persons Participating in the Investigation

    Sevier County Highway Department
    Jonas Smelcer .......... superintendent of roads
    Ralph Whaley .......... supervisor/loader operator
    Scott Douglas .......... truck driver
    Terry Hatcher .......... laborer/truck driver

    Sevier County Sheriff's Department
    Jeff McCarter .......... detective

    Mine Safety and Health Administration
    Joel B. Richardson .......... mine safety and health inspector
    Steve J. Kirkland .......... supervisory mine safety and health inspector


    Persons Interviewed

    Sevier County Highway Department
    Ralph Whaley .......... supervisor/loader operator
    Scott Douglas .......... truck driver
    Terry Hatcher .......... laborer/truck driver

    Sevier County Sheriff's Department

    Jeff McCarter .......... detective