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District 2


Kunkle Strip
(I.D. No. 36 08335)
Marquise Mining Corporation
Avonmore, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania

March 13, 1995


Joseph R. O'Donnell, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Thomas G. Todd
Mining Engineer

Originating Office-Mine Safety and Health Administration
RR 1, Box 736, Hunker, Pennsylvania 15639
Joseph J. Garcia, District Manager


The Kunkle Strip is operated by Marquise Mining Corporation. The mine is located approximately one and one-quarter miles from the intersection of Route 156 and Allshouse Road in Avonmore, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. The mine consists of a single operating open pit, extracting coal from the Double Freeport seam, which averages 84 inches in thickness. Employment is provided for 11 surface workers on one 10-hour production shift, 5-6 days per week with an average of 545 tons of coal mined daily. Explosives, dozers, drills, front-end loaders and rock trucks are used during mining operations. Haulage trucks transport the coal to a nearby preparation plant operated by Canterbury Coal Company.

The principal officers of the operation are as follows:

John M. Lee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . President
Claudia B. Lee . . . . . . . . . . . . Secretary
M. Weleski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Treasurer

The last Mine Safety and Health Administration regular Safety and Health Inspection, at this mine, was completed August 23, 1994.


On Monday, March 13, 1995, the crew arrived at the No. 1 pit office area for the start of the 6:00 a.m. shift. Kevin Buszinski, Job Foreman, issued work assignments for the day.

Raymond Overly, rock truck driver, was assigned to haul mud from the access roads and parking area to the spoil pile using a Caterpillar, Model 773, 50-ton rock truck. Overly then began hauling material to the west side of the spoil pile. He hauled five loads from the lower mine access road, before moving to the parking area. Three 85-ton rock trucks were operating out of the pit area, hauling overburden and dumping on the south side of the spoil pile. James K. Etling, dozer operator, noticed a soft area on the south edge of the spoil pile. He then communicated, by CB radio, to the rock truck operators instructing them to dump short, due to this soft area. Etling informed them he would later push the piles over the spoil bank with the dozer. Etling then left the area to clean haul roads. Overly dumped two loads, from the parking area, on the west side of the spoil pile, while the 85-ton trucks dumped on both the west and south perimeters of the spoil pile.

At about 7:30 a.m., Overly hauled his third load, from the parking area, to the top of the spoil pile. He changed his dump location to the south side of the spoil pile. While backing to dump, he inadvertently traveled over the embankment. Vince Ochiuto, rock truck driver, was preparing to back down to the lower pit area, when he observed the 50-ton rock truck traveling over the edge of the embankment. Ochiuto stated that the truck began to roll on it's side and rolled several times before reaching a bench area. When the truck struck the bench, it began flipping end-over-end until it reached the bottom of the embankment. Somewhere, near the bottom of the embankment, the victim was thrown from the vehicle to the haul road.

John St. Clair, rock truck driver, was parked on the empty haul road, facing east, when he heard rocks rolling down the embankment. Turning left, he saw the 50-ton rock truck come to rest on it's side with the cab facing west and the back tires nine inches from the operator's cab of his truck. St. Clair immediately called, on the CB radio, to Buszinski that an accident had occurred and help was needed. Ochiuto and St. Clair immediately exited their trucks and attempted to locate Overly. Upon finding the victim, they observed the extensive nature of the injuries and no apparent signs of life. First aid or cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) could not be administered.

Upon arriving on mine property at approximately 7:30 a.m., John Lee, President, was told by Buszinski that an accident had occurred, and an ambulance was needed. Lee went to the mine office and notified security at the main gate to get an ambulance. The guard then called Avonmore Lifesavers Ambulance Service which received the call at 7:46 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 8:05 a.m. Robert Bower, Armstrong County Coroner, was notified and arrived at the scene at 9:20 a.m. The victim was pronounced dead at 9:30 a.m. The body was transported to St. Francis Health Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for an autopsy. The cause of death was given as blunt force trauma with crushing injuries.

MSHA was notified of the accident at 7:50 a.m. on March 13, 1995.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence of the accident:

  1. Three Caterpillar, Model 777, 85-ton rock trucks were being used to haul overburden from the pit to the spoil pile. All trucks normally dump over the edge of the spoil pile unless conditions dictate otherwise.

  2. A Caterpillar, Model 773, 50-ton rock truck was being used to transport mud from cleanup activities along the access roads and parking area.

  3. The weather on Monday March 13, 1995 was clear and dry. At 7:30 a.m., the sun was rising to the right of the truck, as Overly backed to the south rim of the spoil pile. The possibility exists that Overly's vision could have been impaired, by the sun, in the right mirror as he was backing to dump.

  4. The top of the spoil pile was relatively level with dry compacted material.

  5. An examination of the pit area only was made by Kevin Buszinski, prior to commencing work and no hazards were found.

  6. A soft open area existed on the south edge of the spoil pile, where no overburden had been deposited. This was at the point where the overtravel occurred. The open area measured approximately 18-feet wide. Sufficient overburden had been deposited on the remaining perimeter, of the spoil pile, to prevent overtravel.

  7. The rim of the spoil was not totally uniform. At the area the vehicle was backing, the right rear tires were on solid ground, while the left rear tires were over the embankment for the last 18-inches at the open area. Normal tire tracks were observed to the edge of the spoil pile (see sketch). There was no evidence of skidding or braking before overtravel began. However, there was approximately 3 feet of smooth tire tracks visible, for the left rear tires, at the top of the downslope. It appears the operator may have attempted to either brake or pull forward once the truck began to go over the embankment.

  8. The gear shift was found in forward position, second gear after the accident.

  9. The distance from the top of the spoil pile to bench was 90 feet, and the total distance from the top to the empty haul road was 190 feet. The angle of repose of the spoil pile was 35 degrees in accordance within the approved ground control plan.

  10. All rock trucks were equipped with CB radios for communication between miners throughout the entire mine property.

    A verbal warning, by CB radio, was given by Etling, Dozer Operator, to all rock truck drivers, that a soft area existed and to dump short on the top and not over the edge of the south rim of the spoil pile. All truck drivers interviewed acknowledged hearing Etling's verbal warning and were aware of this condition.

  11. Overly had a hearing loss, which required the use of a hearing aid. Overly may not have heard the warning, by Etling, to dump short on the south perimeter of the spoil pile.

  12. The dump bed was not in the raised position when the overtravel occurred.

  13. The Caterpillar 773 Rock Truck is equipped with four braking systems. These systems are the service, parking, retarder, and emergency secondary brakes. When the service or emergency brakes are activated, both the front and rear brakes are engaged. There are separate hydraulic circuits for the front and rear brakes. The brakes are actuated by air over hydraulic systems utilizing rotochamber and corresponding brake cylinder. The front axle brakes are a shoe type with expanding hydraulic bladders. The rear brakes are internal wet disc type. Both front and rear axle brakes are applied by the hydraulic pressure created in the brake cylinders when air pressure is introduced into the rotochamber. This air pressure causes the rotochamber pushrods to push against the brake cylinder pistons. The front brakes can be manually deactivated, by a switch located in the cab. Activation of this switch eliminates front wheel braking. It is only to be used during adverse weather conditions.

  14. The retarder, parking, and emergency brakes were found, after the accident, in the off or neutral position.

  15. The victim tested the rear axle service brakes on the 50-ton truck before leaving the parking area. The test was witnessed by two other miners, and the service brakes stopped and held the empty vehicle. According to the witnesses, no tests of the other braking systems were observed.

  16. On March 15, 1995, the truck was turned upright, and functional drawbar pull tests were conducted of the braking systems. The results were as follows:

    1. The front brakes were completely inoperative. A slight hydraulic leak was found in the left front bladder. Due to this leak, there was not enough hydraulic fluid, in the front brakes reservoir, to allow the front brakes to engage. The hydraulic reservoir tank, for the front brakes, was nearly empty, and evidence indicated the condition existed prior to the accident occurring. The front brakes manual deactivation switch was found manually deactivated in the operator's cab.

    2. The parking brake is a driveline spring applied and air released brake. The parking brake was found to be out of adjustment and inoperative.

    3. The retarder was operable. The emergency brake and service brake were operable on the rear tires only. These three braking systems are actuated by separate controls but they actuate the same internal wet disc brakes on the rear axle.

    4. The air system plumbing for the brakes was intact and functioning properly. It was necessary to replace one brake fitting, obviously damaged in the accident, in order to conduct tests. The air compressor could not be evaluated for pressure ability or recovery rate due to the extensive damage of the truck engine area.

    5. Although the front brakes were inoperable, all rear axle brakes were capable of operating and sufficient to stop and hold the loaded rock truck on grades at or above 25 percent.

  17. All tires were in good condition, with at least two inches of tread. The right front tire had apparently deflated during the impact, of the truck, during the accident.

  18. Drugs and drug paraphernalia were found by Armstrong County Coroner, Robert T. Bower, in the victim's pockets at the scene. The substance was confirmed to be Marijuana by the Attorney General's Drug Task Force, Zelienople Base, Butler County, Pennsylvania. An autopsy was conducted by the Allegheny County Coroner's Office, the results of the toxicology study revealed that cannabis was found in Overly's body. Because of the residual characteristic of cannabis, it could not be determined if this was a contributing factor.

  19. The victim was not wearing the seat belt, which was provided in the rock truck. The seat belt was found intact, in the truck cab, and in working condition. The belt was not buckled and no signs of damage could be found. Rollover protection was not provided nor is it required for the Caterpillar 773 Rock Truck by 30 CFR 77.403a(a).


The accident occurred when for an unknown reason the Caterpillar 773 Rock Truck overtraveled the south edge of the spoil pile. The driver was thrown from the vehicle, near the bottom of the embankment, and struck by the rolling rock truck before it came to rest. This resulted in his death due to blunt force trauma with crushing injuries.

A contributing factor was that a means to prevent overtravel was not provided for a distance of 18 feet on the south side of the spoil pile. The perimeter of the spoil, at the accident location, was not uniform resulting in the right rear tires being on solid ground and the left rear tires over the embankment.


  1. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of miners until an investigation could be conducted.

  2. A berm or similar means was not provided to prevent overtravel at the rock truck dump area, a violation of 30 CFR, Section 77-1605(l).

  3. The parking brake and front brakes, of the Caterpillar 773, were inoperative, a violation of 30 CFR, Section 77.1605(b).

  4. An adequate inspection was not conducted, on the Caterpillar 773, before the rock truck was placed in service, a violation of 30 CFR, Section 77.1606(a). All braking systems were not tested, for proper operation, prior to use.

Respectfully submitted by:

Joseph R. O'Donnell, Jr. and Thomas G. Todd
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspectors

Approved by:

Joseph J. Garcia
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin IconFAB95C04