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I.D. NO. 42-01280

DECEMBER 19, 1995


Fred L. Marietti
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Electrical)

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
P.O. Box 25367, Denver, CO 80225
John A. Kuzar, District Manager


The White Oak Mine #2 is an underground coal mine owned by White Oak Mining & Construction (White Oak). The mine is located approximately four miles south of Scofield, Carbon County, Utah and two miles south off State Road 96. The mine was opened in 1981 and operated by Valley Camp of Utah, Inc. prior to being acquired by White Oak in 1993.

The main portals were driven into the lower O'Connor coal seam in a westerly direction and consist of five drift openings. The mains were developed to the west with submains and panels driven to the south by the room and pillar method of mining.

The mine has three radio remote control continuous mining machine sections for development and retreat. Electric shuttle cars are used to haul material from the face to the belt conveyor system, which transports material out of the mine. Diesel powered equipment is used for cleanup, hauling material, and transporting personnel. The mine employs 142 persons, 125 underground and 17 on the surface. Production is two shifts per day and maintenance one shift per day. The mine rotates schedules every other week from five days to six days a week. The average coal production is 5,000 tons per day.

The last Mine Safety and Health Administration regular safety and health inspection, prior to the accident, was conducted from August 28 to December 6, 1995.

The principal officers at the mine at the time of the accident were:

Mark Wayment......................................General Manager
Robert Fox.............................................Shift Mine Manager
Val Lynch...............................................Shift Mine Manager
William Potter.........................................Shift Maintenance Manager
Dave Lindsey..........................................Shift Maintenance Manager


Robert Fox, Shift Mine Manager for the afternoon shift beginning at 3:00 p.m., December 19, 1995, assigned James D. Popejoy (victim), mason and material person, to build isolation stoppings in the Sub South Mains set-up section. The normal material haulage vehicle was an Eimco Model 975 5th wheel unit, which had been out of service about two weeks for repair of the front axle. Fox instructed Popejoy to use an Eimco Model 975 mantrip to haul stopping material. Later, Robert Muncy, diesel mechanic, told Fox that the Eimco Model 975 5th wheel material hauler was repaired and available for use. Fox then told Popejoy to pick up the material hauler at the surface shop and use it to haul supplies.

Popejoy went to the shop area where he contacted Jerry Kinder, mechanic, about the material hauler. Kinder said that he had serviced it and conducted the weekly examination. He released the material hauler to Popejoy.

Popejoy then hauled material to the Sub South Mains and built stoppings. At about l0:40 p.m, he called Fox and asked if he needed the material hauler. Fox told him to work on stoppings and bring it out at the end of the shift. Popejoy's shift was scheduled to end at 1:00 a.m., December 20, 1995.

Leroy Menzies, material person, began his shift at 11:00 p.m., December 19, 1995. Menzies told Fox he needed to haul material to the 2nd East section. Fox called Popejoy and told him to bring the material hauler outside, pick up Menzies, and help him load material at the lower material storage yard. He told Popejoy to have Menzies drop him off at the Sub South Mains section and to work on stoppings until the end of his shift.

Popejoy drove the material hauler outside to the bathhouse where he picked up Menzies. They traveled to the upper yard, dumped some trash, and went back to the bathhouse to pick up Menzies' lunch box, which he had forgotten. At about 11:30 p.m., Popejoy and Menzies proceeded down the surface haulage road, which was an eight to ten percent downgrade, toward the lower storage yard. Popejoy operated the hauler and Menzies sat in the passenger seat.

Menzies said that he felt the machine was traveling faster than the transmission would permit with the hauler in gear. The company had blocked out third gear to keep the machine speed slow. Menzies said he looked at Popejoy and Popejoy chuckled. He said that the material hauler continued to gain speed. At approximately 20 feet from the intersection with the lower storage yard road, the engine started to roar and vibrate, and the vehicle almost stopped. Popejoy told Menzies that he could not control the hauler. Menzies replied, "Are you kidding?" Popejoy said, "No." Menzies told Popejoy that he was going to jump and yelled at Popejoy to jump. Menzies then jumped, back peddled, and fell. He said the machine was going slow and that he wasn't injured, just shaken. As Menzies got to his feet, he saw Popejoy standing up facing the outside of the vehicle as if he were preparing to jump. The machine then travelled around a turn, out of sight. Menzies started running up the hill to get help. He had not traveled far when he heard a crash. He then ran to the machine. It was jackknifed against the guard rail, and Popejoy was under the left front wheel of the trailer. Menzies tried to get a response from Popejoy but was unsuccessful. He then ran up the hill toward the bathhouse to get help.

Menzies met Quentin Fratt, mechanic, above the intersection and told him that Popejoy was injured. Fratt went to help Popejoy and began first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Menzies ran to the bathhouse where he met Fox and Val Lynch, graveyard Shift Mine Manager. Lynch, a trained first responder, Fox, and Muncy ran toward the accident site. Fox shouted to Rob Alemeda, warehouseman, to call the Price, UT ambulance and told Larry Fernandez, forklift operator, to take the forklift to the accident scene.

As they approached the accident, Fox determined it was serious and returned to the bathhouse for the first-aid kit. He told Alemeda to call for the Skyline Mine (an adjacent mine) ambulance. Lynch, Muncy, Fernandez, and Fratt lifted the trailer with the forklift and removed Popejoy from under the wheel. They were performing first-aid and CPR when Fox returned. Oxygen from the first-aid kit was administered, unsuccessfully. Fox returned to the bathhouse to have Life Flight summoned.

First-aid and CPR were continued, and Popejoy was placed in the Skyline Mine ambulance when it arrived. Lynch and the ambulance crew transported Popejoy to the Scofield Church where they met the Price ambulance. Popejoy was transferred to the Price ambulance and transported to the Castleview Hospital in Price, UT, approximately 40 miles away. The autopsy indicated that the time of death was 11:30 p.m., December 19, 1995.

Fox secured the accident scene and MSHA was notified of the accident. MSHA started the accident investigation at 3:30 a.m., December 20, 1995.


  1. Popejoy received 40 hours of newly employed inexperienced miner training. Minesite training was received on October 25, 1995, the day that he started at the mine. Popejoy had 56 days total mining experience prior to the accident.

  2. Popejoy received task training on the Eimco Model 975 5th wheel material hauler on November 15, 1995. He had 34 days experience on this vehicle.

  3. Popejoy was not properly task trained on the operation of the Eimco material hauler. Task training did not include the operating functions of the three oil pressure gages located in the operator's compartment. These gages monitor the closed center nitrogen/hydraulic oil accumulators. This system is used for emergency steering and braking if normal hydraulic pressure is lost. The Eimco operator's manual for the hauler states to shut it down if any of the three gages drops below 1,200 psi. These gages were found to be inoperative.

  4. The driveline disc park brake, hydraulic over spring-operated, on the Eimco material hauler was not properly connected at the operator's control valve. The hydraulic hoses were reversed, and the control valve would not release the spring operated park brake. The spring adjustment bolt was screwed all the way out to release the brake. This defeated the park brake operation. The Eimco operator's manual states not to operate the machine if the park brake is inoperative.

  5. The closed center oil system for emergency steering and braking on the Eimco material hauler was not being tested as required by the manufacturer. Testing of this system was required to assure safe operation when normal hydraulic oil pressure is lost. The mechanics, who serviced the machine weekly, were not aware of nor trained to conduct these tests.

  6. The closed center nitrogen/hydraulic oil accumulators on the Eimco material hauler were not properly maintained. The steering accumulator had a ruptured bladder between the hydraulic and nitrogen compartments, defeating it's purpose. The buffer accumulator also had a ruptured bladder. The buffer accumulator balances and adds extended pressure to the steering, front service/park brake, and rear service brake accumulators. The hydraulic pump check valve was improperly installed. The improper installation caused oil to froth in the main reservoir creating excessive oil discharge out of the vent. The hydraulic oil pressure adjustment was reported to be in excess of 3000 psi. The system is recommended to be operated at 1500 psi. The maximum pressure recommended by the manufacture is 2000 psi. The steering orbital valve, rated at 2500 psi by the manufacturer, may have been damaged by the excess pressure. The valve bypassed the main hydraulic pressure when in the neutral position. The bypassing caused the oil to froth in the tank adding to the similar problem with the pump check valve. These two conditions caused the oil to vent excessively. The oil was running in heavy quantities out the top vent and down the sides and back of the tank causing excessive accumulations on the machine, the park brake pads, and disc.

  7. According to information provided by Menzies, the Eimco material hauler was operated with the transmission in neutral while descending the surface access road toward the lower storage yard. This allowed faster travel down the steep grade than with the machine in gear. Normal speed in 1st gear is about 4 to 5 mph. Second gear is about 10 mph and 3rd gear, which was blocked out and not used, is about 20 mph. When Popejoy re-engaged the transmission, the excessive vehicle speed caused the engine to exceed the maximum operating rpm of the Deutz diesel engine (2400 rpm). This caused the fuel injection pump to cut back the fuel in an over-speed condition. This may have caused the engine to stall with the subsequent loss of normal hydraulic oil pressure. The loss of oil pressure prevented the operator from having positive steering control. When the machine was tested with the engine off, there was little or no steering operation because the system was not maintained as described above. The transmission of the Eimco material hauler was found to be in first gear during the accident investigation.

  8. The accident occurred at night at approximately 11:30 p.m. Menzies said the vehicle's lights were operating. During the investigation, the right headlight was found to point higher than the left. This condition could have occurred during the accident. The lights worked when tested.

  9. Menzies stated that visibility was good and the moonlight was bright at the time of the accident. He saw Popejoy standing and facing the outside of the machine with his right leg out as if preparing to jump.

  10. The roadway was paved, smooth, and dry at the time of the accident.

  11. The outside air temperature was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of the accident.


The accident occurred due to management's failure to properly maintain and test the Eimco 975 5th wheel material hauler and to adequately task train the victim on the safe operation of this machine. Because of these factors, the victim lost control of the material hauler while descending an eight to ten percent grade on the surface access road. The victim's limited experience with the material hauler may have contributed to the cause of the accident. Specifically, the following factors contributed to the cause of the accident:

  1. The victim was not properly task trained on the safe operation of the Eimco Model 975 5th wheel material hauler.

  2. The machine was not being maintained in safe operating condition to assure safety of the operator or passengers during it's operation. There was no steering control when the engine stalled and normal hydraulic oil pressure was lost.

  3. Maintenance personnel were not performing the necessary tests to assure safe operating conditions of the machine. They were not aware the tests were needed nor did management train them or require them to conduct the tests.

  4. The machine was being operated on an eight to ten percent grade with the transmission in neutral which allowed it to travel too fast for the design of the machine. The machine speed was too fast to negotiate the 180 degree turn at the intersection with the road to the lower storage yard.


  1. Section 103(k) Order No. 3854472 was issued at 3:30 a.m., December 20, 1995, to ensure the safety of the miners until an investigation could be completed.

  2. Section 104(d)(2) Order No. 3855850 was issued on February 6, 1996, for a violation of 30 CFR 48.7(a)(1); failure to provide proper task training to operators of the Eimco 975 5th wheel material hauler.

  3. Section 104(d)(2) Order No. 3855849 was issued on February 6, 1996, for a violation of 30 CFR 75.1725(a); failure to maintain the Eimco 975 5th wheel material hauler, Serial No. 975 0537, in safe operating condition.

  4. Section 314(b) Safeguard No. 3855851 was issued on February 6, 1996, according to 30 CFR 75.1403; requiring all self-propelled, rubber- tired vehicles to be operated with the transmission in gear at all times while traveling in a forward or reverse direction.

  5. Section 314(b) Safeguard No 3855852 was issued on February 6, 1996, according to 30 CFR 75.1403-10(k); requiring all self-propelled, rubber-tired vehicles to be equipped with mechanical steering and control devices that provide positive control at all times and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's operating specifications.

  6. Section 314(b) Safeguard No. 3855853 was issued on February 6, 1996, according to 30 CFR 75.1403-l; requiring all self-propelled, rubber- tired vehicles to be equipped with brakes, lights and a warning device maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's operating specifications.

Submitted by:

Fred L. Marietti
Coal Mine Safety & Health Inspector (Electrical)

Approved by:

James E. Kirk
Acting Subdistrict Manager

John A. Kuzar
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB95C45