Skip to content
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Report of Investigation

Surface Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident
January 26, 2000

Strasburg Quarry
Global Stone Chemstone Corporation
Strasburg, Shenandoah County, Virginia
ID No. 44-00026

Accident Investigators

Charles W. McNeal
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Robert H. Madenford
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Gharib Ibrahim
Civil Engineer

Ronald R. Miles
Civil Engineer

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Northeastern District
230 Executive Drive, Suite 2
Cranberry Township, PA 16066-0260
James R. Petrie, District Manager


On January 26, 2000, Harold J. Spears, laborer, age 37, was fatally injured when he was crushed between a descending counterweight for a tripper conveyor and the counterweight's guard. Spears was sitting on top of a 5-foot 10-inch high guard that enclosed the counterweight's framework, using a bar to dislodge material from within the framework. While in this position, the tripper moved causing the counterweight to drop, striking him.

The accident was caused by the failure to lock out the tripper and block the counterweight against motion before cleaning within the guarded area. Spears had a total of 3 years, 26 weeks mining experience, with the last 13 weeks as a laborer with this company. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.


Strasburg Quarry, a surface limestone operation, owned and operated by Global Stone Chemstone Corporation, was located at Strasburg, Shenandoah County, Virginia. The principal operating official was Joseph Ferrell, general manager. The plant was normally operated one, 12-hour shift a day, seven days a week, however, the plant laborers normally worked one, 8-hour shift a day, five days a week. Total employment was 108 persons.

Limestone was drilled, blasted, and transported by haul trucks to the plant where it was crushed, milled, and processed in vertical kilns. The finished products were high calcium and hydrated lime sold for use in agriculture, and crushed stone was sold for use as construction aggregate.

A regular inspection was in progress on the day of the accident.


On the day of the accident, Harold Spears (victim) reported for work at 7:00 a.m., his regular starting time. He was assigned by Roger Orndorff, foreman, to assist Joseph Reynolds, laborer, to clean the shaft kiln draw floor at the burned lime plant. Spears and Reynolds proceeded to clean the floor area until about 10:30 a.m. At that time, Spears decided to clean built-up material from within the guarded framework of the tripper conveyor's counterweight. He climbed on top of the guard and sat on the guard's top horizontal brace, with his feet hanging outside the guard and his upper torso positioned beneath the counterweight. While in this position, he began cleaning material from within the framework using a long steel bar. Reynolds was located outside the framework and was using a modified shovel to clean material from an opening at the bottom of the framework. Reynolds stated that he had told Spears that the position he was in was unsafe, but Spears did not get down.

At about 10:45 a.m., the No. 4 kiln was full of raw material and Clarence Harmond, kiln fireman, decided to move the tripper over to the No. 5 kiln. Harmond could not see the area where Spears and Reynolds were working, but sounded an alarm prior to moving the tripper. Spears apparently either did not hear the alarm, or did not realize that it meant the counterweight would be moving. As the tripper was moved, the counterweight descended crushing Spears against the top horizontal brace of the guard.

Reynolds heard Spears cry out, but did not see the counterweight strike him. When he saw that Spears had been crushed by the counterweight, he immediately contacted Orndorff who was working nearby and informed him of the accident. Orndorff, in-turn, contacted Gary Stoneburner at the main office, who gave instructions to call the emergency squad. Rescue personnel arrived a short time later. They could not detect any vital signs and proceeded to extricate Spears from beneath the counterweight. Spears was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Death was attributed to crushing injuries.


An MSHA inspector was at the mine conducting a regular inspection when the accident occurred and he immediately responded to the scene. An order was issued under the provisions of section 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of miners until the affected area could be returned to normal operations.

MSHA's accident investigation team arrived the following morning and conducted an investigation with the assistance of mine management; inspectors from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy; and, mine employees. The miners did not request, or have, representation during the investigation.


1. The burned lime plant included a structural facility surrounding five vertical shaft kilns. The kilns were loaded from the top using a belt conveyor equipped with a tripper (vibrating screen and discharge chute). The head and tail pulley were in a fixed location and the tripper was moved along the conveyor.

2. An electric winch with a 10-hp reversible motor was connected to both ends of the tripper. Operating the motor in the forward direction pulled the tripper uphill to the No. 5 kiln, and operating the motor in the reverse direction pulled it downhill to the No. 4 kiln. The use of the counterweight assisted the movement of the tripper uphill to the No. 5 kiln.

3. During the loading operation, the tripper was positioned directly above the kiln being loaded. Loading of the kilns took place approximately four times per day. On the day of the accident, the No. 4 kiln was loaded first, then the No. 5 kiln.

4. Controls for the tripper were located in both the kiln facility and in a control room approximately 300 yards away. The control room used monitors and video cameras located on the top of the kiln structure to observe the tripper movement and loading operation. The accident site was not within the view of these cameras.

5. The counterweight was constructed of steel and weighted approximately 4,500 pounds. It measured approximately 39 inches wide, 37 inches high, and 11 inches deep. It was attached to the tripper through the use of a 1-inch diameter steel cable.

6. When the tripper was positioned above the No. 5 kiln, the bottom of the counterweight was in its lowest position, approximately 14 inches above the floor level. When the tripper was positioned above the No. 4 kiln, the bottom of the counterweight was in its highest position, approximately 9 feet 8 inches above the floor.

7. The counterweight traveled vertically through a framework which was designed to guide its movement during the loading of the kilns. The counterweight's framework was approximately 42 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and extended the entire height of the kiln structure. It was constructed of 3 inch by 3 inch by 1/4-inch steel angle iron used for the vertical guides and the horizontal and diagonal cross bracing.

8. A protective guard surrounded the floor area around the counterweight framework. The west, north, and south sides of the guard measured 5 feet 10 inches high, with the bottom 2 feet constructed of solid steel panels and the remainder constructed of expanded steel. The east side of the framework was next to a stairway and was guarded by a solid steel panel.

9. The bottom of the guard on the north side had a 6 � inch by 10 inch opening, through which a shovel could be inserted to remove material from the bottom of the enclosure. The shovel that was being used by Reynolds at the time of the accident had been modified specifically for this purpose. Hardened material, however, had built up inside the enclosure and Spears decided to use a bar to dislodge it from above.

10. The bar that Spears was using at the time of the accident was fabricated from a length of drill steel that measured approximately 9 feet long.

11. When the tripper was positioned above the No. 4 kiln, the bottom of the counterweight was approximately 3 feet 10 inches above the top horizontal brace of the guard on the west side of the counterweight's framework.

12. It took approximately 12 seconds for the tripper to travel from the No. 4 to the No. 5 kiln and for the counterweight to travel from a height of 9 feet 8 inches above the ground to its lowest position, 14 inches above the floor level. It is estimated that less than 2 seconds elapsed from the time the counterweight began moving before it struck Spears.


The accident was caused by the failure to lock out the tripper conveyor and block the counterweight against motion before cleaning within the guarded framework that the counterweight traveled.


Order No. 7728908 was issued on January 26, 2000, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on January 26, 2000, when a laborer was apparently cleaning material at the "Shaft Kiln Building" when the "Tripper Belt" counterweight crushed him. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this operation until the affected areas of the mine can be returned to normal operations as determined by an Authorized Representative of the Secretary. The mine operator shall obtain the approval from an Authorized Representative for all action to recover the victim and affected areas of the mine to normal.
This order was terminated on January 27, 2000, when it was determined that conditions that contributed to the accident no longer existed and that normal operations could resume.

Citation No. 7719345 was issued on February 7, 2000, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR, Part 56.14105:
A laborer was fatally injured at this operation on January 29, 2000, when he was crushed by a counterweight used to assist the movement of a tripper conveyor. The counterweight traveled within an enclosure that was guarded near ground level by steel sheet and mesh. The victim had climbed the 5 foot 10 inch high guard on the west side of the enclosure and was sitting on top of it using a bar to dislodge material from within the enclosure when the tripper conveyor was moved causing the counterweight to drop. The power to the tripper conveyor was not shut-off and the counterweight was not blocked against motion.
This citation was terminated on February 8, 2000. All plant employees were made aware of the accident and told that they shall not expose themselves beyond a guarded area unless the guarded object is blocked against motion.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB00M03


Persons Participating in the Investigation

Global Stone Chemstone Corporation
Gary Stoneburner, administrative manager
William D. Reid, vice president and area manager
Law Office, Patton Boggs
Mark Savit, attorney
Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy
David Cress, mine inspector
David Benner, mine inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Ronald R. Miles, civil engineer
Gharib Ibrahim, civil engineer
Charles W. McNeal, supervisory mine safety and health inspector
Robert H. Madenford - mine safety & health inspector
Donald L. Ratliff - mine safety & health inspector

Persons Interviewed

Global Stone Chemstone Corporation
Roger Orndorff, foreman
Clarence Harmond, kiln fireman
Joseph Reynolds, laborer