DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
Surface Nonmetal Mine
Fatal Explosive Accident
Dyno New England, Inc.
ID No. B6Z
The York Hill Traprock Quarry Company, Inc.
The York Hill Mine and Mill
I.D. No. 06-00026
Meriden, New Haven County, Connecticut
July 16, 1997
Michael J. Music
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Edward M. Blow
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Northeastern District Office
230 Executive Drive, Suite 2
Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania 16066-6415
James R. Petrie
Joel Kanute, lead blaster, age 43, was fatally injured at approximately 7:45 a.m., on July 16, 1997, and Arthur "Skip" Sibley, Jr., age 38, general manager, was seriously injured, when a premature detonation occurred while they were trying to dislodge a cartridge of dynamite that had hung up in a blast hole. Both individuals were employed by Dyno New England, Inc., an independent contractor specializing in blasting. Kanute had 4� years with this company, and 17 years experience in handling explosives. Sibley also had 4� years with this company, and 18 years experience in handling explosives. Kanute and Sibley had received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.
Cheryl Suzio, safety coordinator for The York Hill Traprock Quarry Company, Inc., notified MSHA at approximately 8:40 a.m. on the day of the accident. An investigation was started the same day. The last regular inspection of The York Hill Traprock Quarry Company, Inc., was completed on May 16, 1997. Another regular inspection was conducted after the conclusion of this investigation.
The York Hill Mine and Mill was a multiple bench, crushed stone, operation with an associated mill, owned and operated by The York Hill Traprock Quarry Company, Inc., and located in Meriden, New Haven County, Connecticut. The principal operating official was Leonardo C. Suzio, president. The facility normally operated one, 9-hour shift per day, 5 days per week, and employed a total of 10 persons.
Dyno New England, Inc. was contracted to do the blasting at The York Hill Mine and Mill. The principal operating official was H. Dean Mitchell, president. Dyno New England, Inc. was located in Middlefield, Connecticut, and employed a total of 50 persons, four of whom were working at the mine on the day of the accident. Dyno New England, Inc. worked at this property approximately 1 day per week, every other week.
At the mine, traprock was drilled, blasted, and then loaded into off-road haul trucks utilizing front-end loaders. The trucks transported the material from the pit to the mill where it was crushed and sized. The finished products were loaded onto over-the-road trucks for transport to customers.
The quarry where the accident occurred consisted of seven benches with an inclined haul road at the north-northeast end. The explosion occurred on the sixth bench and Kanute fell over the 46-foot highwall to the fifth bench.
The blast pattern consisted of 21 holes laid out in a triangular shaped blast pattern. Most of the holes were drilled on an 11-foot by 11-foot spacing and burden, however, the spacing between several of the holes near the highwall edge was less than 11 feet due to irregularities in the highwall face. These front holes were angled between 4 and 5 degrees to achieve an 11-foot burden at the bottom of the hole. Each blast hole was 4 inches in diameter and 51 feet deep. The holes were laid out and drilled by the drilling contractor, Dearco Drilling, Inc. The ground where the blast pattern was laid out was basically level with visible cracks near the edge of the highwall. The blast hole which prematurely detonated was located near the southeast corner of the blast pattern and was approximately 7 feet from the edge of the highwall. It was drilled straight and was not one of the angled holes.
The loading and initiation of the 21 holes was planned for the morning of July 16, 1997, by Dyno New England's blast crew. Each member of the crew had handled explosives in this quarry on several previous occasions.
The explosive which had hung up in the hole was a 3�-inch diameter by 16-inch long cartridge of Gelaprime F brand gelatine dynamite, 85% strength, containing nitroglycerine, and weighing 8 pounds. It was manufactured by Dyno Nobel, Inc., in Joplin, Missouri, and the lot had a date/plant/shift code of 04JU97J1-44599. This product was not manufactured with a bail for lowering into boreholes.
The Nonel (non-electric) brand detonators, used to assemble the primers, were manufactured by Dyno Nobel, Inc. in Port Ewing, New York, and came attached to a 60-foot length of shock tube. A primer was assembled by punching two holes in a cartridge of Gelaprime F , one through the cross section of the cartridge, and the other in the priming end of the cartridge. The detonator was then passed through the cross-hole and into the priming end.
The company's procedure for loading the blast holes in this quarry was as follows:
(1) Four cartridges of 3�-inch by 16-inch Gelaprime F were dropped to the bottom of
Members of the blast crew, however, were not consistently following the above loading procedure, and would vary the placement of the primer among the five cartridges at the bottom of the hole.
It is not known how many cartridges of explosives Kanute had loaded into the hole prior to the one which hung up. Sibley, who had come over to assist Kanute free the hang-up, stated that the cartridge which hung up was the only one in the hole, and that the hole did not contain a primer. A blast crew member who had witnessed the accident stated to police that Kanute and Sibley had already lowered five cartridges of explosives into the hole, and were lowering the primer when it hung up. Evidence observed and collected at the accident scene, however, did not confirm either account regarding the location of the primer.
The evidence supports a finding that, at the time of the accident, a primer was located near the bottom of the hole, and that the shock tube from the primer's detonator was strung the length of the hole with several feet exposed on the surface. Additionally, it supports a conclusion that a cartridge of dynamite had hung up near the top of the hole and that impacting it with the loading pole caused it to detonate. When the cartridge detonated, the explosive shock traveled the length of the shock tube to the bottom of the hole, setting off the primer and other cartridges of explosives. The detonation of the cartridge near the top of the hole also produced a small crater on the surface surrounding the hole.
A piece of shock tube, 4-feet 3-inches long, which had been fired, was found near the blast hole. It was determined that the remaining 55-feet 7-inches of the shock tube was in the blast hole at the time of the accident and had disintegrated in the explosion. If the primer had been located near the top of the hole as one witness stated, rather than near the bottom, most of the shock tube should have been found intact on the surface.
Following the accident, the other holes in the blast pattern were loaded and the entire shot was set off. After clearing the muck from the blast site, the remnant of the hole involved in the premature detonation was found in the floor of the quarry. Examination of this hole revealed the presence of explosive residue, and fracturing and expansion of the ground surrounding the hole. This supports the finding that explosive charges had been located in the bottom of the hole and that they had detonated. Alternatively, if the bottom of the hole did not contain any explosives as claimed by Sibley, there should have been little or no explosive residue found, and the ground immediately surrounding the hole would not have exhibited direct blast damage.
Prior to the accident, Kanute and Sibley had used a retrieving tool to try and extract the hung up cartridge from the hole. This tool was 7 inches long and had 6 pointed brass barbs at the end whose function was to grab the product to be retrieved. It contained a ball which fit into the socket end of the loading pole. Sibley stated that the retrieving tool had come off the pole and was lost down the hole, however, he could not recall if it had broken off or become detached from the socket. The use of this retrieving tool and subsequent impacting with the loading pole, presumably introduced grit into the explosive material. Information provided by a manufacturer of nitroglycerin-based explosives, and Bureau of Mines' Circular No. 54, indicates that the introduction of grit into nitroglycerin-based explosives can make them more sensitive to impact.
The loading pole, which was being used by the victims at the time of the accident, was wooden, 1�-inch in diameter, with aluminum ball and socket connectors. Reportedly, the pole was 16 feet in length when purchased. Two sections were recovered, one 5-feet, 4�-inches long and the other 3-feet, 1-inch long. The condition of the tip of the loading pole just prior to the explosion was not known. If the retrieving tool had broken off, the tip of the pole may have been bare wood. If it had become detached from the socket, the tip of the pole would have consisted of an aluminum socket. Sibley stated that his arms had become fatigued by his effort to free the cartridge using the loading pole. Additionally, a blast crew member who had witnessed the accident stated to police that Kanute and Sibley were impacting on the explosives heavily with the loading pole when it detonated.
Neither Kanute or Sibley were wearing a safety belt and line at the time of the accident, and none were worn by any of the four-man crew that morning while loading holes that were within 3 to 4 feet of the edge of the highwall. The contractor had been cited several times previously, and once at this same quarry, for failure to use safety belts and lines. The company president had sent a letter to all employees approximately a month before the accident, stating that they were expected to use a safety belt and line when working near the edge of a highwall. However, this blast crew, which included the two agents of the contractor who were involved in the accident, chose to ignore these instructions.
When the blast crew arrived at the quarry, they found a very thick, low fog condition, making it difficult to find their way to the blast site. There was no electrical activity in the immediate area at the time of the accident.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On the day of the accident, the blasting crew consisting of Joel Kanute, lead blaster, (victim), Arthur "Skip" Sibley, Jr., general manager, (injured), William Ripley IVth, powder truck driver, and Jonathan Handley, bulk truck driver, arrived around 6:00 a.m. Kanute assigned the crew to check, measure, and load holes beginning about 6:25 a.m. Loading progressed normally until approximately 7:30 a.m., when Kanute had a cartridge of explosives material hang up in one of the holes he was loading.
Sibley finished the hole he was loading then went over to assist Kanute. After they unsuccessfully tried using a loading pole to dislodge the stuck cartridge, they attached a retriever tool and tried to extract the explosive material. However, the tool either broke off or became detached from the pole and remained in the hole. They then resumed impacting the explosives using the loading pole. The use of the retrieving tool, and continued use of the loading pole after the retrieving tool had been lost down the hole, presumably resulted in the cartridge being punctured and contaminated with dirt and grit from the hole.
At about 7:45 a.m., while they were using the loading pole to try and dislodge the cartridge, a detonation occurred. Kanute took the main force of the blast and fell over the 46-foot highwall. Handley, who was loading the hole directly behind the one which detonated, caught Sibley who had stumbled backwards, while noticing Kanute falling over the face. Handley, a trained EMT, administered first-aid to Sibley, who was seriously injured in the blast. He then proceeded to his truck and called 911, while Ripley stayed with Sibley. After Handley returned, Ripley went down to the 5th level and administered first-aid to Kanute until two ambulances arrived a short time later.
Kanute was transported via ambulance to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Sibley was stabilized and transported via a second ambulance to the local hospital where he spent several weeks recovering.
The primary cause of the accident was the impacting on the dynamite with a loading pole. The failure to wear a safety belt and line while working where there was a danger of falling contributed to the severity of the accident.
A formal written procedure for handling hung explosives should be developed and followed. Once a cartridge of explosives becomes firmly lodged in a hole, efforts to dislodge it should be discontinued, and the hole top primed and fired with the rest of the round.
Additionally, loading procedures for each shot should be established and consistently followed by all members of the blast crew.
Order No. 4569386
Issued on July 16, 1997, at 8:40 a.m., under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
Citation No. 7704722
Issued to Dyno New England Inc. on September 30, 1997, under the provision of Section 104 (d) of the Mine Act, for violations of 30 CFR 56.6905(b):
Citation No. 7704723
Issued to Dyno New England Inc. on September 30, 1997, under the provision of Section 104(d) of the Mine Act, for violations of 30 CFR 56.15005:
//s/ Michael J. Music
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
//s/ Edward M. Blow
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Approved by: James R. Petrie, District Manager
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin: