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Western District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health


Boron Operations, ID No. 04-00743
United States Borax and Chemical Corporation
Boron, Kern, California

March 27, 1995


David A. Kerber
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Harvey D. Brooks
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Western District Office
3333 Vaca Valley Parkway, Suite 600
Vacaville, California 95688
Fred M. Hansen, District Manager


William H. Abber, a 43 year old mechanic, was fatally injured when the vehicle he was driving was backed over by a 170 ton haul truck. Abber had 20 years of mining experience, all at this operation.

The accident occurred at the United States Borax and Chemical Corporation's Boron Operations open pit mine. The Boulder City Field Office was notified of the accident at 5:00 p.m., March 27, 1995, by David Leach, U.S. Borax safety supervisor. Garry Day, Assistant District Manager, was then informed and an investigation was started the following day.

The Boron Operation was located near the town of Boron, Kern County, California. The mine had 640 employees working three eight-hour shifts seven days a week. Access to the area of the mine where the accident occurred was limited to haul trucks and authorized company vehicles.

At the pit, material was mined with an electric shovel, loaded into 170-ton trucks, and then transported to the plant where it was processed for shipment.

Operating officials for U.S. Borax and Chemical Corporation were:

Joseph A. Carrabba...... General Manager
Kevin C. Doxey ............Mining Manager
David Leach..................Safety Supervisor

The Part 48 Training Plan for U.S. Borax was approved February 16, 1994.

The last regular inspection of this mine was conducted January 31 through February 9, 1995.


Two trucks were involved in the accident. One was a 170 ton Lectra Haul Mark 36, company number USB9651, serial number 449, manufactured by Unit Rig. The other was a l994 Ford F-350 1 ton utility truck, company number USB6977, serial number 2FDKF380XCA- 98988. The Ford was referred to by its radio call sign, T-29.

The Lectra Haul Mark 36 was 38 feet long and 19 feet high. The outside width of the rear wheels was 20 feet and the width of the front wheels was 19 feet. The frame height between the rear wheels was 32 inches. The truck had an empty weight of 194,825 lbs. Following the accident, the backup alarm and the reverse lights were tested and found to be functional.

During day shift on the day of the accident, the T-29 utility truck had been used by Stephan M. Talevich, a roving mechanic. According to Talevich, the truck was in good operating condition.

At the time of the accident, both trucks were traveling downgrade on the primary road leading into the pit. This road was 100 feet wide with a 6% slope and was well maintained.

On the day of the accident, the weather was dry and sunny.


William Abber, a roving mechanic on swing swift, reported to work at 3:00 p.m., March 27, l995. He received a call at about 3:45 p.m. concerning a problem in the pit area. Abber was responding to the call, in utility truck T-29, when he came upon two haul trucks stopped at the 2150 level on the Extension 24 haul road.

He pulled up behind truck 9651.

The two haul trucks had stopped across from each other, window to window, after the driver of truck 9651 signaled the driver of truck 9658 to stop. Donald Elwell, operator of truck 9651, wanted to inform the driver of 9658 that he had noticed an oil leak on the right rear wheel of his truck.

Thomas Johnson, operator of truck 9658, signaled that his radio was out of order and he could not hear due to engine noise. He then pulled forward to the utility truck that was stopped six to eight feet behind Elwell's haul truck. He held up his microphone, indicating to Abber that his radio was not functioning. Abber responded with a "thumbs up" sign.

Elwell, still trying to tell Johnson of the oil leak, leaned out the window and held up a clenched fist, a signal to stop. He then put his truck into reverse and began backing toward the other truck. Feeling a "bump," and resistance to the truck's reverse motion, he stopped and then pulled forward and to the right. He could then see the smashed utility truck behind him in the road. He immediately used his radio to call for help, and went to the utility truck to render assistance to Abber.

Johnson, looking through his rear view mirror, witnessed the illumination of haul truck 9651's reverse lights and the utility truck being crushed.

An ambulance, a Mercy Flight for Life helicopter, the Kern County Fire Department, and the County Coroner were summoned. Approximately 45 minutes were required to extract Abber from the utility truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene and taken to the Kern County Morgue.


The accident occurred because the utility truck was parked too close to the haul truck. Its driver had not radioed the haul truck driver notifying him of his presence. Company rules require that smaller vehicles remain 300 feet from trucks which haul pit material.

Respectively submitted by:

/s/ Harvey D. Brooks
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ David Kerber
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Fred Hansen, Manager, Western District
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95M13]