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MSHA News Release No. 2000-0719
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere, Rodney Brown or Kathy Snyder
Phone: (703) 235-1452 

 Released Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Increase in Drownings at Active and Abandoned Mines Prompts Warning

  In the wake of a series of recent drownings at several quarries around the nation, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a warning reminding swimmers of all ages to steer clear of these sites.

  "Once again, we are mourning the tragic and totally unnecessary deaths of young persons seeking fun in all the wrong places," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. Over the last month, at least seven people drowned while swimming in abandoned rock quarries, an inactive sand and gravel mine and a water-filled limestone pit.

  MSHA has tracked 15 non-mining deaths on mine property this year, and the ages of the victims range from 16 to 30. Nine died in swimming accidents, three in mishaps involving all-terrain vehicles, two in a truck accident and one from a fall down a 200-foot shaft. All but two of the victims were male. (For details about each accident, visit www.msha.gov and click on "Stay Out -- Stay Alive.")

  "Miners are trained to work in a safe manner. Unauthorized visitors or adventure seekers have no idea what hazards await them," said McAteer. Abandoned water-filled quarries and pits can conceal rock ledges, old mining machinery and sharp-edged, barbed wire fencing. Unsuspecting swimmers may develop cramps from the icy temperature, and divers can miscalculate the water's depth.

  Active and abandoned underground mines may harbor undetectable and deadly gases, such as carbon monoxide and methane. Decaying timbers, loose rock and tunnels at old operations can collapse at any time.

  Two years ago, MSHA launched "Stay Out–Stay Alive," a nationwide public awareness campaign to warn children and their parents about the dangers of playing on mine property. "If we can educate kids while they're young and still impressionable, perhaps they'll remember what they learned when they get a little older and are tempted to explore an old mine shaft or swim in a rock quarry," said McAteer.

  "Stay Out–Stay Alive" is a cooperative venture involving more than 40 federal, state and private sector organizations. Throughout the year, MSHA and its partners visit schools, community groups and scout troops nationwide to distribute stickers, posters, coloring books and videos and discuss the dangers children may encounter on mine property.