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Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Report of Investigation

Surface Nonmetal Mine
(Sand and Gravel)

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

October 12, 2002

Russell Pit
High Plains Sand & Gravel
Wellington, Larimer County, Colorado
ID No. 05-04634

Accident Investigators

Chrystal A. Dye
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Dale D. Teeters
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ronald Medina
Mechanical Engineer

Steven J. Miller
Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Rock Mountain District
P.O. Box 25367, DFC
Denver, Colorado 80225
Irvin T. Hooker, District Manager


Helen L. Pittington, president, age 52, was fatally injured on October 12, 2002, when she was struck by a front-end loader that was backing up. The accident occurred because the victim inadvertently placed herself in the loader operator's blind spot.

Pittington had 13 weeks experience, all with this company. She had received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 46.


Russell Pit, a sand and gravel operation, owned and operated by High Plains Sand & Gravel, was located in Wellington, Larimer County, Colorado. The principal operating officials were Helen L. Pittington, president, and Robert C. Pittington, vice-president. The mine was normally operated one 8-hour shift a day, five days a week. Total employment was three persons.

Sand and gravel was extracted from the pit by front-end loader. The material was screened for size and transported to stockpiles with haul trucks. The finished product was sold for use in construction projects.

A regular inspection of this operation was conducted on August 20, 2002.


On the day of the accident, Helen L. Pittington (victim) and her husband Robert Pittington arrived at the mine site at approximately 9:30 a.m. They went to the mine to work on the newly installed truck scales. Helen worked on the controls inside the scale house while Robert backfilled material around the scales using the front-end loader.

At approximately 11:10 a.m., Helen walked a few hundred feet to the neighbors' house to ask if she could use the electrical outlet on their utility pole to power the scales. Robert was unaware that she had left the scale house. She stayed at the neighbors' for about 15 minutes and then walked back towards the scales.

Robert had backfilled around the west and south sides of the scales and had moved to the east end. He had a small stockpile of material north of the scales and was using it to backfill. After filling the loader's bucket, he looked over his right shoulder and checked his mirrors. He backed the loader, then pulled forward to dump the bucket. He felt a bump and thought he had run over a rock. He looked in his mirrors to back up when he saw his wife lying on the ground.

Robert got off the loader and began screaming. The neighbor and two other gentlemen, who were there airing up their truck tires, heard the screams, looked over and called 911. Emergency medical personnel arrived and pronounced the victim dead at 11:28 a.m. Cause of death was multiple trauma to the head and torso.


MSHA was made aware of the accident at 10:00 p.m., the same day. An investigation was started the following day. An order was issued pursuant to Section 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of miners.

MSHA's accident investigation team traveled to the mine, made a physical inspection of the accident site and equipment involved, interviewed persons, and reviewed necessary documents.


  • The accident occurred on the road east of the scales.

  • The front-end loader was a 1994, John Deere, Model 744E, Serial No. CK744EB000469. The loader was equipped with an audible backup alarm that functioned when the gear selector was placed in reverse. The braking, steering, and throttle system were evaluated and no defects were found.

  • The operator's compartment was equipped with four rear view mirrors. Two were inside the compartment and two were outside. All mirrors were convex. The two inside mirrors were 8 inches by 5 inches in size, and were located near the top of the windshield to the left and right of the operator. The two outside mirrors on the left and right sides of the operator's compartment were 12 inches high and 7 inches wide. The mirrors and window glass were clean.

  • Reportedly, the victim was known to collect rocks and would often walk with her head down.

  • The victim had walked to a neighbors' house to obtain permission to use an electrical outlet on a utility pole.
  • There were no witnesses. The two gentlemen airing up the truck tires saw the victim walking up the haul road, but lost sight of her before the accident occurred when their vision was blocked by the two haul trucks parked next to them.


    Based on the information gathered during the investigation, it was likely that the victim was walking with her head down as she approached the scale house and did not realize she was in the loader operator's blind spot. These conditions contributed to her being struck and fatally injured by the front-end loader.

    The root cause of the accident was the failure to make eye contact with the loader operator.


    Order No. 6297726 was issued on October 13, 2002, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
    A fatal accident occurred at this operation on October 12, 2002, when a front-end loader was placing material around a recently installed truck scale. A person on the ground was struck and run over by the front-end loader, causing fatal injuries. This order is issued to ensure 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 for all actions to recover persons, equipment and/or return affected areas of the mine to normal operations.
    This order was terminated on October 14, 2002. Conditions that contributed to the accident have been corrected and normal mining operations can resume.

    Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
    Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB02M30


    Persons Participating in the Investigation

    High Plains Sand & Gravel
    Adam J. Logan ............. mobile equipment operator
    Tammy H. Daskam ............. victim's daughter
    Mine Safety & Health Administration
    Chrystal A. Dye ............. mine safety and health inspector
    Dale D. Teeters ............. mine safety and health inspector
    Ronald Medina ............. mechanical engineer
    Steven J. Miller ............. mine safety and health specialist

    Persons Interviewed

    High Plains Sand & Gravel
    Robert C. Pittington ............. vice-president
    Adam J. Logan ............. mobile equipment operator
    Edwin W. Turner ............. neighbor