Skip to content


Western District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Metal Mine

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

Dan F. Halstead & Son Trucking, Contractor ID No. BXQ
Located at Mineral Ridge Resources Inc.
Silver Peak, Esmeralda, Nevada
Mine ID No. 26-02302

September 16, 1997


Thomas E. Barrington
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Timothy B. Hannifin III
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Western District Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
2060 Peabody Rd., Suite 610
Vacaville, Ca. 95687

James M. Salois
District Manager


Steven Showell, contract truck driver, age 58, was fatally injured on September 16, 1997, at approximately 9:15 p.m., when a semi-tractor truck ran over him. The victim was hired the day of the accident and was about to receive his site specific training at the time of the accident. He had been a truck driver for approximately 15 years.

Gary Saunders, safety coordinator for Mineral Ridge Resources Inc., notified MSHA of the accident at 11:30 p.m. An investigation was started the following day.

Mineral Ridge Resources Inc.'s mine, operated on the "Mary Drinkwater" historic mine site in Silver Peak, Nevada, was a multi-bench, open pit mine. The company was a subsidiary of Cornucopia Resources, Inc., located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The mine was normally operated two, twelve-hour shifts, seven days per week. A total of 91 employees were employed, including contractors.

Ore was blasted from the benches and loaded into haul trucks with front end loaders. The material was then crushed and placed on leach pads. Gold was recovered from the leach process and refined on site.

Dan F. Halstead & Son Trucking was contracted to haul water, approximately 25 miles, from a spring in the Fish Lake Valley area to a holding pond adjacent to the mine operation. Halstead had been transporting the water for four weeks prior to the accident.

The last regular inspection for the mine was completed on June 6, 1997.

Physical Factors Involved

Involved in the accident was a 1973 Kenworth model W 900, serial number 129394, tractor and Onca 5,500 gallon water tanker trailer. The total weight of the tractor and trailer, loaded, was estimated at 64,000 lbs.

The service brakes on the 1973 Kenworth semi tractor and trailer are air supplied/spring released. Primary application is controlled by a foot valve to the tractor brakes on the two drive axles. The tractor brakes are provided with Anchorlok spring canisters.

Situated on the steering column, under the steering wheel, a control valve called a "Johnson Bar" when pulled towards the operator, applies air pressure that actuates the trailer service brakes. The "Johnson Bar" applies service brakes to the trailer on much the same principle as the foot pedal applies the brakes to the tractor.

Parking brakes on the tractor were applied by the spring portion of the Anchorlok canister. An air toggle switch mounted on the dash releases the high tension spring in each canister which applies the mechanical force to the dual brake assemblies. This is the only approved park brake on the Kenworth tractor. The trailer emergency brakes have a separate actuating device. The knob states, "Emergency brake only. Pull to set. Not a park brake."

The trailer is supplied air through an "RT4" valve mounted to its frame above the trailer's front duals. Testing during the investigation found an air leak in the RT4 valve. This leak caused the trailer brakes to release in 52 seconds.

On the day of the accident the trailer brake system was tested and the gland connection between the tractor and trailer had fittings replaced and was spot welded in place to prevent vibration prior to Showell driving from Lund, Nevada to the mine site.

Tire chocks were attached to the tractor adjacent to the operator's door.

The accident occurred on Mineral Ridge Resources Inc.'s west access road. The west access road began at the property fence and ran southeast to northeast down a slight grade. About two hundred feet inside the mine property is the west side security office. The access road had a 5 percent grade at the security office. The grade increased to 7� percent before leveling off about 550 feet away. The road sloped side to side and was provided with proper drainage and an adequate berm.

Description of Accident

On the date of the accident, Steven Showell (victim), contract truck driver, reported for work in Lund, Nevada at about 1:30 p.m., his regular scheduled starting time. He was assigned to drive a 1973 Kenworth semi-tractor truck and water trailer from Lund to the mine site, approximately 250 miles away. He was to stop for a load of water from a spring in Fish Valley before arriving at the mine site.

Arriving at Silver Peak, Nevada, Showell met Paul Walker, site leadman. Walker took Showell and a second driver, Bill Shepard, to the fill site and gave them task training on equipment pre-operation inspection; how to load; and other aspects of the job. After his truck was loaded, Showell was instructed to stop at the mine security office and receive "site specific" training before he could continue into the mine.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. Showell arrived at the mine and informed Ann Martino, security guard, that he needed to be given site specific training. Walker and Shepherd proceeded to the mine holding pond to unload. Showell set the trailer brake but did not activate the tractor park brake. He placed the tractor's transmission in neutral and left the engine running. The wheel chocks attached to the tractor were not used.

Upon entering the office, Showell and Martino noticed the tractor/trailer had begun rolling down the road. Showell ran after the tractor/trailer in an attempt to stop it. Martino saw that Showell had caught up to the truck and was hanging onto it while it continued down the hill.

Martino went back inside and called for help on the mine's two way radio system. She then got into the emergency response vehicle and, while en route to the truck, saw Showell in the west side drainage ditch approximately 125 feet from security office. The truck had come to a stop about 350 feet from the security office on the right side of the road on top of a berm. Martino called Brice Gubler, process superintendent, at his home in Silver Peak and had him call for the Silver Peak ambulance. Shannon Long, crusher operator, and Paul Hoey, laborer, responded to the radio call and along with Martino found no vital signs on the victim.

Showell was pronounced dead at the scene by Esmeralda Deputy Coroner at 10:45 p.m. The cause of death was listed as "Blunt Force Trauma, caused by being run over by a tractor trailer."


The primary cause of the accident was the failure to set all park brakes and chock the tractor/trailer wheels while parked on a grade. Contributing to the cause was the mechanical defect of the trailer brakes, which allowed the brakes to release after 52 seconds.


The following orders were issued during this investigation:

Order/Citation No. 04524394
Issued on September 17, 1997, under the provisions of Section 103(K) of the Mine Act.

On September 1, 1997, a truck driver was fatally injured when he was run-over by his semi-truck. This order is to insure the safety of persons in the area. No work or travel is to be permitted in the immediate area until the area where the accident occurred is determined to be safe. Area covered was the mine's access road.

Order No.7951694
Issued on September 9, 1997, under the provisions of Section 107(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.14101(a)(3).

All braking systems installed on the 1973 Kenworth semi tractor and trailer, serial number 129394, were not maintained in functional condition. A RT4 valve for the trailer brakes, was found defective. A malfunction in the RT4 system allowed the brakes to release causing the semi to run away while parked on a grade.

A full trailer contains 5,500 gallons of water. A loaded weight of 64,000 lbs. was estimated for the tractor and full trailer. The tractor operates on various road grades, from flat to in excess of 7 percent. The RT4 valve is designed for emergency application, not as a park brake. A failure of the RT4 valve while working on the typical mountain grades creates an imminent danger to the driver.

Order No. 7951695
Issued on September 9, 1997, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.14207.

The 1973 Kenworth semi tractor and trailer, serial number 129394, was left unattended on the Mineral Ridge Resources west access road without the use of a wheel chock. The road was determined to have a grade of 5 percent to 7� percent on mine property. The semi's transmission was placed in neutral and engine left running. The driver exited the operators station and entered the mine's security office when the semi rolled down the road. The driver was fatally injured when the semi ran over him.

The driver was instructed by the owner to use the chock attached to the tractor when stopping the semi.

//s// Thomas E. Barrington
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

//s// Timothy B. Hannifin III
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by: Felix A. Quintana, Acting District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M51]