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Southeastern District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Slip/Fall of Person Accident

Mr. Charley Perry
Mississippi Limestone Corporation
Friars Point, Coahoma County, Mississippi
Mine I.D. 22-00639

September 28, 1997


W. L. Wilkie
Supervisory Mine Inspector


Mitchell Adams
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

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

Martin Rosta
District Manager


James Thomas Woods, foreman, age 56, drowned at approximately 5:20 p.m. on September 28, 1997, when he fell from the barge on which he was working. Woods had a total of 11 years mining experience, all with this company. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.

Manual Peters, secretary-treasurer for Mississippi Limestone Corporation notified the MSHA Franklin, Tennessee field office of the accident at 8:00 a.m. on September 29, 1997. An investigation was started the same day.

The Mr. Charley Perry dredge, owned and operated by Mississippi Limestone Corporation, was located at mile marker 658 on the Mississippi River. The dredge normally operated two, twelve hour shifts, seven days a week and employed six persons. Operating officials were Clifford P. Davis, president, Clint Davis, vice president, and Manual N. Peters, secretary-treasurer.

Sand and gravel was suctioned from the river bottom, then washed and screened on the dredge, before being conveyed to material barges and transported six miles down river to the plant.

The last regular inspection of this operation was conducted on May 27-28, 1997. Another regular inspection was conducted in conjunction with the investigation.


The dredging operation consisted of the dredge, a material barge and a stringer barge. At the time of the accident, the dredging operation was located about 1200 feet from the west shore on the Mississippi River in about 45 feet of water. A crew boat provided access for men and materials from the shore to the dredge and barges.

The dredge had a metal hull and measured approximately 150 feet long and 38-1/2 feet wide. The bottom deck housed the suction engine and electrical generators. The second deck consisted of the screening, washing and conveying systems. The top deck served as the wheel house from which dredging operations were controlled. Personal flotation work vests were available on the dredge.

The accident occurred on the material barge, which was secured to the port (left) side of the dredge by cable and rope. The flat-top barge had a metal hull and measured 195-1/2 feet long and 35 feet wide. The barge was accessed from the dredge. On the starboard (right) side, opposite the dredge, the barge had a metal retaining wall to prevent conveyed materials from spilling back into the river. The retaining wall was approximately 3 feet high, and 143 feet long. The outer edge of the barge, which was intermittently restricted with metal braces to support the retaining wall, was about two feet wide and had some gravel spilled on it. Several manhole covers were located along this two-foot outer edge, which provided access to the interior of the barge. Normally, the covers were closed and secured with a screw-down lock. When closed and not secured, the covers would tilt if stepped on.

The barge was loaded to approximately 70% capacity on the day of the accident. A wooden 2 by 2 measuring stick, 10 feet long, was used to measure the distance between the deck of the barge at the four corners and the water surface. This measurement was called "freeboard" and was taken to gauge the load distribution on the barge.

A stringer barge, located at the stern of the dredge, was hinged to the dredge and served as anchorage for the dredging operation. It also served as a fuel storage location and office shack area. The stringer barge had a flat-top metal hull and measured 100 feet long and 30 feet wide.

A tug boat was used to transport barges between the plant and dredge. At the time of the accident, the tug boat was docked at the plant.

On the day of the accident the weather was clear, the temperature was 89 degrees, and there was no wind.


On the day of the accident James Woods, foreman, (victim) and Joe Asher, pumper, reported to work at 6:00 a.m., their regular starting time. This would have been Woods' fifteenth consecutive twelve-hour work shift. Woods and Asher took the crew boat to the dredge.

After conducting initial start-up checks for the dredge, Woods performed his normal duties as foreman while Asher performed his duties as pumper. One of Woods' duties was to gauge the amount of material on the barge. Woods did this by going to all four corners of the barge and, using a measuring stick, checked the "freeboard" from the barge to the water surface. This was done at the beginning and end of each shift, and as needed during the day, to ensure the barge was loaded evenly.

Work progressed normally throughout the day until about 3:15 p.m. when a break down occurred on the shaker screen. Woods went inside the screen to weld support bars on the shaker. He completed these repairs at 4:00 p.m., at which time Asher heard on the intercom system the door to the office shack open and close and assumed that Woods had gone inside the air-conditioned office to cool off.

Dredging continued until 5:30 p.m., which was the end of the shift. At that time, Asher went to the crew boat, expecting Woods to be there to return to the shore. Asher started looking for Woods and when he could not find him, radioed the tug boat and notified them that Woods was missing. The boat pilot started blowing the horn and radioed the plant that Woods was missing.

A search was started from the plant and approximately two miles south of the dredge they found the measuring stick floating on the river. The search continued for Woods without success. His body surfaced five days later, approximately 15 miles from where it is believed he fell into the river.

There were no witnesses to the accident. However, footprints indicated that Woods walked along the 2-foot wide outer edge of the barge, on the river side of the retaining wall. Marks in the over flow gravel outside the wall indicated he had been dragging the measuring stick behind him. The footprints went the length of the barge and stopped at the last manhole cover, which was loose. It is assumed that Woods had walked on the outer edge of the barge to measure the freeboard and stepped on the manhole cover which may have tilted, causing him to loose his balance and fall into the river. He was not wearing a life jacket.

Cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to drowning.


Failure to use safe means of access between the front and back of the barge was the direct cause of the accident. Contributing to the severity of the accident was work being performed in an area where there was a danger of falling into the water without a life jacket being worn. Fatigue, due to working 15 consecutive twelve-hour shifts may have contributed to the accident.


Citation No. 7760402
Issued on October 30, 1997, under the provisions of 104(d) (1) for violation of Standard 56.15020:

A fatal accident occurred at this operation on September 28, 1997, when a sand and gravel dredge foreman fell from a barge into the Mississippi River, which was approximately 45 deep at this location. The foreman was measuring freeboard for the barge without wearing a life jacket. He was walking the outer edge of the barge, which was approximately 2 feet wide, had loose material spillage along it, and was obstructed intermittently by support braces for the retaining wall. The foreman, who was in the 11th hour of his 15th consecutive 12 hour work shift, failed to wear a life jacket and used an unsafe means of access between the front and back of the barge, which is more than ordinary negligence and constitutes aggravated conduct. This violation is an unwarrantable failure.

/s/ W. L. Wilkie
Supervisory Mine Inspector

/s/ Mitchell Adams
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:Martin Rosta, District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M52]