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Southeastern District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Underground Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Fall of Face Accident

Crab Orchard Mine
Franklin Industrial Minerals
Crab Orchard, Cumberland County, Tennessee
Mine I.D. 40-00087

April 1, 1997


Vernon R. Denton
Supervisory Mine Inspector


Donald Baker
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 212
Birmingham, Alabama 35209

Martin Rosta
District Manager


Orlon Keith Shrewsbury, driller, age 39, was fatally injured at about 11:40 a.m. on April 1, 1997, when he was crushed by a ground fall from the rib. The victim had 10 years experience as a miner with Franklin Industries, and had worked as a driller for 7 years. He had received mandatory training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.

Randall Dye, safety director, for Franklin Industrial Minerals notified the Knoxville, Tennessee, field office of the accident at 12:20 p.m. on April 1, 1997. The investigation was started the same day.

The Crab Orchard Mine, an underground crushed limestone operation, owned and operated by Franklin Industrial Minerals, was located � mile east of Crab Orchard, Cumberland County, Tennessee. The principal operating official was Lloyd Gilreath, plant manager. The mine normally operated two, 10-hour shifts a day, 7 days a week and employed 54 persons. Twenty employees worked underground.

The mine was a room and pillar limestone mine driven into the side of a large hill. Entry was by multiple declined adits which also served as main haulage roads.

Development of the room and pillar configuration was also the main production since all of the rock that was removed was also the principle product. Drifts were driven approximately 25 feet high, by 50 feet wide with right angle crosscuts turned out on 100 foot centers. The resulting pillars, about 50 foot square, were left to support the roof. This was considered to complete the first mining phase.

All drifts in the mine were driven by conventional drilling and blasting. Mucking was by means of rubber-tired front-end loaders and the rock was hauled by rubber-tired trucks to the surface to be crushed, sized and stockpiled for sale.

The second phase of mining was the removal of 25 feet of floor from the existing drifts, leaving the pillars for support. In similar fashion, a third and fourth phase were completed with the final mined out area being about 100 feet high.

Each additional mining phase was done by taking up 25 feet of floor by downhole drilling and blasting. The mucking and hauling was by the same methods as used for the first phase.

The last regular inspection of this operation was conducted February 5, 1997.


The area between pillars 517 and 518 had the first mining phase completed approximately 15 years earlier and had since been idle. When the accident occurred, the victim was in the process of beginning the second mining phase by drilling downholes so the area could be blasted.

A Joy Ram MS6 air-track drill was being used with two pieces of drill steel, one 14 feet in length and the other 12 feet in length to drill each downhole.

Scaling was performed by means of hand scaling from a manlift basket upon demand. Routine area scaling was not part of the normal mining cycle unless specifically requested through the foreman.

Roof-bolting was done on an as-needed basis. The majority of the roof underground was without mechanical support.


On the day of the accident, Orlon Keith Shrewsbury (victim) reported to work at 6:00 a.m., his regular starting time. Shrewsbury was to proceed to the area between pillars 517 and 518 to drill a pattern of holes in preparation of blasting.

Prior to Shrewsbury starting his assignment, James Headrick, foreman, drove through the area and visually examined the work place. He then instructed James Phillips, truck driver, to use a front-end loader and clean the floor before Shrewsbury started drilling. While cleaning the floor, Phillips noticed loose on the rib of pillar 517 and used the bucket of the front-end loader to scale from the toe up to 8 feet along a section of the rib, which was as high as the loader could reach. He finished the clean up, moved out of the area and at about 6:15 a.m., Shrewsbury, started drilling.

At about 10:50 a.m. Headrick visited the area. By that time Shrewsbury had completed 11 holes. When Headrick left, Shrewsbury continued drilling. It was estimated that around 11:40 a.m., Shrewsbury had drilled down 14 feet of the 14th hole. He was adding the second piece of drill steel to complete the hole when the accident occurred. A slab of loose rock, about 10 feet wide, by 18 feet long, and wedge-shaped up to 2 feet thick on the top, fell from the upper section of the 517 pillar, covering Shrewsbury almost completely.

At 12:05 p.m. Phillips returned to the area where Shrewsbury has been working. He saw the fallen rock and found Shrewsbury in front of the drill, covered by the material.

Believing that Shrewsbury was dead, Phillips notified employees in the area and then went to the surface. He informed company officials of the accident and they called 911. The Cumberland County Ambulance Service arrived about 15 minutes later. The victim was removed from the scene of the accident and transported to the Cumberland Medical Center where he was pronounced dead by Dr. Barry Stewart, attending physician. Death was attributed to massive head injuries.


The causes of the accident were inadequate examination and testing of ground conditions prior to work being performed in the area and failure to scale loose in an area where employees were working.


Order No. 4299405
Issued on April 1, 1997, under the provisions of Section 103(k):

On April 1, 1997, an air track drill operator was fatally injured at the underground mine when a ground fall occurred. This order is issued to insure the safety of experienced personnel who are assigned the task of recovering the victim. The accident site is not to be disturbed pending an investigation by MSHA.

This order was terminated on April 3, 1997. The 103-K order is terminated to allow the drill to be removed and necessary safety work to be done.

Citation No. 4554927
Issued April 3, 1997, under provisions of Section 104a of the Mine Act for violation of Standard 57.3200:

Blast holes were to be drilled in the No. 2 north drift floor between pillars 517 and 518. The driller had been working beneath loose along the west rib of pillar 518 while drilling holes two or three feet from the toe. After relocation of the east rib of pillar 517 a large slab of loose about 10 by 18 feet in width and length and from 2 feet thick to feathered fell and fatally injured the driller.

This citation was terminated on April 8, 1997. All loose rock on pillars 517 and 518 were sounded, tested, and scaled down, and made safe.

Citation No. 4554928
Issued April 3, 1997, under provisions of Section 104a of the Mine Act for violation of Standard 57.3401:

The ribs of pillars 517 and 518 adjacent to the No. 2 north drift may have been examined but were not tested or sounded. There was a coating of fine dust from nearby blasting and visual examining was not adequate to detect hazardous ground conditions. Reportedly the area had not been tested in recent years. There was adjacent blasting and drilling which caused shock and vibration to the pillar rock. The only scaling performed was an attempt with a front-end loader bucket up to about 8 feet and down.

This citation was terminated on April 7, 1997. The ribs of pillars 517 and 518, adjacent to the No. 2 north drift, were tested, sounded, and loose ground taken down to floor. The area was made safe.

/s/ Donald Baker
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ Vernon Denton
Supervisory Mine Inspector

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M19]