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Northeastern District

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Fall of Person Accident

Taylor Run Pit and Plant
H. W. Cooper & Sons, Incorporated
Slippery Rock, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania
ID No. 36-05128

June 26, 1996


Randall L. Gadway
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Mine Safety and Health Administration
Northeastern District
230 Executive Drive, Suite 2
Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania 16066-6415

James R. Petrie
District Manager


Kevin Reeher, truck driver, age 35, was fatally injured at about 1:35 p.m., on June 26, 1996,
when he jumped onto an elevated walkway and it collapsed. Reeher fell into a bin below the walkway and was suffocated when a build-up of material along the sides of the bin collapsed on top of him. Reeher had a total of 8 years mining experience, 3 weeks and 2 days as a truck driver at this operation. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified at 5:05 p.m. on the day of the accident by a telephone call from Daniel A. Santone, general manager. An investigation was started the following day.

The Taylor Run Pit and Plant, a sand and gravel operation, owned and operated by H. W. Cooper & Sons, Inc., was located at Slippery Rock, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Principle operating officials were Daniel A. Santone, general manager, and Lilburn B. Cooper, superintendent. The plant was normally operated one, 9 1/2-hour shift a day, 5 days a week. A total of 3 persons was employed.

Sand and gravel were extracted from a glacial till deposit using a front-end loader. The material was hauled by truck to either an adjacent processing plant or stockpiled. At the plant, the material was crushed and sized through various shaker and rotary screens. After processing, it was stored in holding bins and then hauled by truck to other stockpiles located on the property. The finished product was sold primarily for roadbase and construction aggregate.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on October 5, 1995. Another inspection, which had been started the day before the accident, was completed following this investigation.

Physical Factors

The section of walkway where the accident occurred was located directly above the "pea gravel bin" in the plant. The floor of this walkway was constructed of rough-cut, red oak planks, which were approximately 2 1/4 inches thick, 10 inches wide, and 62 inches long. The planks did not break and appeared to be in good condition. They were supported underneath by a 3-inch wide section of angle iron at one end and fastened to a wood floor joist with size 16-D nails at the other end. The joist was also made from rough-cut, untreated, red oak, and measured 2 1/4 inches thick, 4 inches wide, and 62 inches long. It was fastened to a 6-inch steel beam by two, 3/8-inch diameter carriage bolts that were 6 inches long. These bolts were placed about 1-foot from either end of the joist. The joist had dry rotted on the side facing the steel beam and broke away from the bolts when Reeher jumped onto the walkway. The construction of the walkway was not adequate due to lack of additional support underneath the planks, failure to use treated wood, the joist was too small to support the weight imposed, and the bolts attaching the joist to the steel beam were spaced too wide.

The pea gravel bin was constructed of concrete block and measured 12 feet wide, 14 feet long, and 22 feet deep. Its capacity was approximately 100 tons. Two drawholes with hand-operated gates were located at the bottom of the bin. At the time of the accident, the bin was partially full of a mix of sand and fine gravel. However, it had not drawn down evenly and the sand mix was steeply inclined along the sides of the bin, with a clear area above the drawholes.

Description of Accident

On the day of the accident, Kevin Reeher (victim) reported for work at 7:00 a.m., his normal starting time. The plant was not scheduled to operate that day because of a change-over to a different product mix. Reeher and Lilburn Cooper, superintendent, spent the morning washing the old product out of several bins. At about 1:00 p.m., they decided to repair two holes in a shaker screen which fed the pea gravel bin. They planned to use a long board for access to this screen and Cooper asked Reeher to retrieve one that was laying near the walkway below. Two steps led down to this walkway, a distance of about 2 feet. Instead of using the steps, however, Reeher jumped down onto the walkway. When he landed, the joist that supported one side of the walkway broke, causing several of the floor planks to give way, and Reeher fell with them into the pea gravel bin.

Reeher fell approximately 26 feet to the bottom of the bin and was surrounded by an almost vertical wall of sand mix that extended to about 2/3 the height of the bin. Cooper saw Reeher fall and immediately went to his aid. The two men talked and Reeher stated that he had hurt his leg. Cooper grabbed a large diameter water hose located nearby and lowered one end of it into the bin for Reeher to grab onto. Realizing that he could not get Reeher out due to his leg injury, Cooper ran to the plant office, approximately 200 feet away, where he called the company's main office for assistance. Cooper then returned to assist Reeher and found that the wall of sand mix had collapsed, completely engulfing him. Cooper lowered himself into the bin using the water hose and frantically tried to uncover Reeher. When local rescue personnel arrived, they lifted Cooper out of the bin and administered oxygen because his vital signs were elevated. Reeher was recovered about 3 1/2 hours later and was pronounced dead at the scene.


The direct cause of the accident was failure to substantially construct the elevated walkway and maintain it in good condition. The collapse of the sand mix in the bin greatly contributed to the severity of the accident.


Order No. 4442562
Verbally issued on June 26, 1996, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act to protect the health and safety of the employees and rescue workers until the mine could return to normal operation. The order was reduced to writing and served to the mine operator the following day. It was terminated on June 28, 1996.

Citation No. 4442565
Issued on July 3, 1996, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.11002:

A fatal accident occurred on June 26, 1996, when a section of elevated walkway above the "pea gravel bin" collapsed when an employee jumped onto it from a height of about 2 feet. The employee fell into the bin and was engulfed by a mix of sand and fine gravel. The walkway was not substantially constructed in that it's decking was supported on one end by a 62 inch long horizontal 2-by-4 and held in place by two bolts. Additionally, the 2-by-4 was rotted and was not maintained in good condition.

This citation was terminated on July 3, 1996, after access to the collapsed walkway was barricaded against entry pending reconstruction. The replacement or repaired walkway must be of substantial construction and maintained in good condition.

//s// Randall L. Gadway
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by: James R. Petrie, District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB96M26]