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North Central District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Fall of Person Accident


Kowalski-Kieler, Incorporated
Plant # 1
Dickeyville, Grant County, Wisconsin
I.D. No. 47-01758

May 6, 1998

Date of Death
April 29, 1998


Ronald E. Brendle
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Arthur J. Toscano
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

William G. Hatfield, Jr.
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Federal Building, U.S. Court House
515 West 1st Street, # 333
Duluth, MN 55802-1302

Felix A. Quintana
District Manager


Lester A. Kieler, foreman/co-owner, age 38, was fatally injured at about 5:30 p.m. on May 6, 1998, when he fell from the top of the quarry wall to the quarry floor. He had a total of 15 years mining experience, eight years as a foreman at this operation. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48. Annual refresher training had been completed on March 17, 1998.

MSHA was notified at 8:05 p.m. on the day of the accident by a telephone call from the vice president for the mining company. An investigation was started the following day.

The Plant #1 quarry, a surface limestone mine, owned and operated by Kowalski-Kieler, Inc., was located at Dickeyville, Grant County, Wisconsin. The principal operating official was Jack Kieler, vice president of operations. The mine was normally operated one, 10-hour shift, five days a week. Three to four persons were employed.

Limestone was drilled and blasted from a single bench in the quarry. Broken material was transported by front-end loader to a crushing and screening plant where it was sized, and stockpiled. The finished product was sold for road and building construction.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on March 3, 1998. Another inspection was conducted following this investigation.


The accident occurred at the top of the south wall of the quarry. The perimeter of the high wall extended for about 2000 feet and the wall was approximately 60 feet high at the location where the accident occurred. Examination of the high wall did not indicate that any portion of the wall failed causing the victim to fall. The empty cardboard boxes had been burned about 10 feet from the high wall edge. Two safety belts and lines were located in the victim's truck which was parked about 100 feet away. No other employees were on the property at the time of the accident. The weather was sunny and dry, with a slight breeze and the temperature was about 72 degrees.


On the day of the accident there was no mining activity at the quarry. However, shortly past noon, Travis Kieler, front-end-loader operator, and Al Freeze, lead man, were dispatched to the quarry to repair the secondary crusher.

At about 4:00 p.m., Lester Kieler (victim) arrived. He told Kieler and Freeze that even though he had taken the day off, he stopped in to burn the empty explosives boxes that were left atop the high wall from a recent blast. He said he had forgotten to dispose of the boxes and now they were blowing into the muck pile and clogging-up the crusher and sizing screen. Their conversation lasted until about 5:00 p.m., when Kieler and Freeze left for the day.

At about 5:15 p.m., Jack Kieler drove past the quarry and noticed the gate open. He entered the property and saw smoke coming from atop the south high wall and saw what he initially thought to be a blue box falling from the high wall. He drove to the quarry and found the victim, who was wearing blue jeans and a blue sweatshirt, lying face down on the quarry floor. He checked for vital signs and finding none, summoned emergency assistance.

The county rescue squad responded to the call and arrived within minutes. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the county coroner a short time later.


The accident was caused by failure of the foreman to take necessary precautions while working near the high wall edge. A safety belt and lanyard were available in his truck. Further, there was ample room to move the pile of boxes back from the edge of the high wall prior to burning them. That he simply walked to the edge of the highwall to look and then fell, was also a possible cause.


Order No. 4558723 was issued on May 7, 1998, under the provisions of Section 103k of the Mine Act. A fatal accident occurred on May 6, 1998 when a foreman fell from the south high wall to the quarry floor. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this operation until the affected areas can be returned to normal mining operations as determined by an authorized representative of the Secretary.

This order was terminated on May 8, 1998, after it was determined that the mine could safely resume normal operations.

Citation No. 4424291 was issued on May 29, 1998, under the provisions of Section 104d1 of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.15005:

The foreman at this operation was fatally injured on May 6, 1998, when he fell from the south high wall area to the quarry floor, a distance of about 60 feet. He was burning empty explosives boxes atop the high wall, within 10 to 12 feet of the high wall edge. He was not wearing a safety belt and line that were located nearby in his company vehicle. This is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory safety standard.

This citation was terminated on May 29, 1998:

The mine operator established written procedures that mandate the use of fall protection when working from elevated locations where a fall could result in an injury. All company employees and management personnel were instructed on the requirements of this policy on May 22, 1998.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98M22