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South Central District


Cote Blanche Mine, ID No. 16-00358
North American Salt Company
Lydia, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana

October 31, 1995


Ronald M. Mesa, Special Investigator
Daniel J. Haupt, Supervisory Special Investigator

South Central District Office
1100 Commerce Street, Room 4C50
Dallas, Texas 75242-0499
Doyle D. Fink
District Manager


On October 31, 1995 Thomas Shinn, floor driller, age 27, was fatally injured at approximately 3:30 a.m. when he was run over by a Caterpillar 988-B front end loader. Shinn was operating a EZ Go golf cart when the front end loader collided with him. During the collision Shinn jumped from the golf cart and was run over by the left front tire of the loader. Shinn had a total of five years mining experience, and one year as a floor driller, all at this mine site.

The Cote Blanche Mine, was located approximately 20 miles south west of New Iberia, Louisiana. The mine began producing salt in 1965. Mining was performed by the conventional room and pillar method. Salt was drilled and blasted, then placed in 35 ton haul trucks by front end loaders for transportation to the underground crusher. The salt was crushed, screened, sized and transported to the surface through the production shaft. The underground room and pillar workings range from 800 to 1300 feet below the surface of the mine. The finished product, rock salt, was shipped to a variety of users world wide. A total of 8,000 tons of raw salt was produced each day by 149 employees working three 8-hour shifts a day, seven days a week.

Operating officials were:

John Fallis............Mine Manager
Jim Blair...............Mine Services Manager
Larry Schulte........VP Environment & Safety

Mine Services Manager Jim Blair notified Acting MSHA Supervisor Willard Graham, Denham Springs Field Office, of the accident at 4:12 a.m. on October 31, 1995. A fatal accident investigation was started on the same day.

Mine employees were represented by the United Steel Workers of America, 1111 South Foster Drive, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70569.

The mine had an approved MSHA 30 CFR Part 48 Training Plan which was last revised in May 1988. Company records indicated that Mr. Shinn had received all the required MSHA training.

Information for this report was obtained by evaluating the accident site and interviewing company officials and employees. The last regular inspection of this mine was conducted on August 3, 1995.


The accident occurred on the 1300 foot level of the underground mine at the intersection of Q and 19 drifts. The intersection was approximately 62 feet wide by 28 feet in height. The roadway was level and covered with salt fines. There was no fixed lighting at the intersection.

There was a semi transparent curtain erected in the east opening of the intersection for ventilation purposes. The curtain was installed in a fashion to allow mobile equipment to pass through it. The visibility through the curtain was poor. The curtain material was identified as Clear Vertex Model #8440, MSHA approval #7B-33/18.

The front end loader involved in the accident was a Caterpillar Model 998-B (Company #9). The height of the loader was 13 feet 6 inches. The width of the loader was 11 feet 8 inches and it weighed approximately 98,000 pounds. The height of the rear bumper was 3 feet 5 five inches from ground level. The tires on the loader were approximately 3 feet wide by 6 feet 8 inches in height. The loader was equipped with a back-up alarm (non-functional), 6 front flood lights, 2 rear flood lights (one non-functional), 2 rear red brake lights (non-functional) and a manual horn. All the braking systems were operational.

The golf cart (Company name, Floor Drillers Go Cart) was a E-Z-Go Freedom 4 Wheel Electric vehicle, manufactured by EZ Co., Textron. It weighed approximately 800 pounds and was 94 inches in length and 48 inches in width. The cart was equipped with one small headlight, mounted above the center console. The brakes were operational.


Thomas Shinn and Dewain Collet reported to work at their regular starting time for graveyard shift, 11:00 p.m., on October 30, 1995. The crew waited for the smoke to clear from the previous shift's blast and entered the mine at about 11:30 p.m.

Shinn was instructed by Richmond Batiste, production foreman, to go to the bench area and help with the scaling. After completion of his scaling assignment, Shinn was instructed to work on the #2 floor drill located in U and 16 drift.

At approximately 1:30 a.m., on October 31, 1995, Batiste checked on Shinn at the U and 16 drift. Shinn stated that his drill was malfunctioning and he needed a mechanic. He was instructed to cover the drill holes and lay out his drill pattern until the mechanic arrived.

At about 2:30 a.m., Richard Darcey, shift maintenance mechanic, instructed Mark Lancon, mechanic, to check the #2 floor drill. While en route to the drill site, Lancon met Shinn at the transformer station located at the T and 20 drift. They traveled to the #2 floor drill together. Shinn explained that the brakes were leaking oil on the drill. Lancon returned to the shop area with the brakes to repair some broken O-rings. Shinn arrived at the shop area shortly thereafter. Before Lancon finished the brakes, Shinn had started back to the #2 floor drill.

At approximately 3:00 a.m., Lancon completed the brake repairs and headed back to the #2 floor drill. He again met Shinn at the transformer station and they returned to the drill together. Lancon checked his watch and noted the time was 3:15 a.m. He was nearly finished with his brake work on the drill when Shinn told him that he was going to the #1 floor drill to pick up the other driller and go to lunch.

At the beginning of the shift Collet was informed by Richmond Batiste, production foreman, that his 988 B front end loader was in need of repair and was in the shop. Collet went to the shop area and found that the steering column had to be repaired. At approximately 2:45 a.m., the loader repairs were complete. Collet inspected his loader and found everything to be operational except the back up alarm.

He checked the equipment board to find the location of the scaling boom which he needed. Collet searched the M and 19 area, the floor drill area, and the S and 19 drift area but was unable to locate the boom. He then proceeded north down 20 drift to the air curtain at Q and 19 drift. Collet drove through the air curtain approximately 20 feet and stopped. He scanned the area for the boom but could not locate it there either. At approximately the same time, Shinn was proceeding north down 20 drift to the air curtain.

Collet stated that he blew his manual horn, flashed his flood lights and proceeded back through the air curtain. The 988 B front end loader and the EZ Go golf cart collided as the rear of the loader came through the air curtain. The golf cart became wedged between the right rear tire and the differential housing of the loader. The loader proceeded south for approximately 53 feet, pushing the golf cart as it went. Collet saw Shinn lying on the ground approximately 15 feet from the air curtain. He stopped his loader and ran to check if any one else was on the golf cart. Collet then ran to Shinn and could find no pulse.

He ran to the mine phone at the transformer station and notified the hoistman of the accident. Vincent Louviere, medic, arrived at the scene within a minute or two. Louviere could find no vital signs on Shinn. Shinn had received massive internal injuries and trauma injuries to the right shoulder and arm. Shinn was placed on a stretcher and transported to the surface by the mine personnel.


The cause of the accident was the failure of the provided back up alarm to provide warning that the loader was backing up, the failure of the rear flood light to provide any warning that the loader was proceeding towards the curtain and the failure of brake lights to illuminate in order to provide a warning the loader had stopped beyond the curtain.


Citation Number 4447566, was issued under the provision of Section 104(a), for violation of 30 CFR 57.14100(b):

A fatal haulage accident occurred at this mine on 10/31/95, involving a 988-B Caterpillar front end loader and an EZ Go golf cart. The back up alarm on the 988-B Caterpillar front end loader was defective.

Citation Number 4447567, was issued under the provision of Section 104(a), for a violation of 30 CFR 57.14100(b):

A fatal haulage accident occurred at this mine on 10/31/95, involving a 988-B Caterpillar front end loader and an EZ Go golf cart. Two violations on the loader were cited in this citation.

  1. The rear flood lamp was broken and not functional.
  2. The brake lights were not functional.

These citations were terminated on November 5, 1995. All the equipment defects were repaired on the 988-B Caterpillar front end loader.

Respectfully submitted by:

/s/ Ronald M. Mesa
Special Investigator

/s/ Daniel J. Haupt
Supervisory Special Investigator

Approved By,

Doyle D. Fink
District Manager
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95M40]

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