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Utah mine cited in fatality

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WASHINGTON — The Mine Safety and Health Administration has cited the Bear Canyon Mine in Emery County for safety violations in a December 2007 accident that killed a coal-truck driver.

MSHA this past week completed its formal investigation into the death of David Whiting, 31, of Elmo and found that a parking-brake system failure caused the accident. Whiting was crushed when one of C.W. Mining's front-end loaders being used to tow his truck moved, trapping him between the loader and his front bumper, according to the investigation report.

Whiting worked for Trimac Transportation Service Inc. During an assignment to haul coal from the Bear Canyon surface facility, Whiting's truck became stuck on the mine road, and loader operator Ivan Ortega was sent down to help him.

Ortega backed a loader about six feet from the truck's front bumper, put on the parking brake and hooked a chain to the loader as Whiting was putting the chain on his truck. The loader began rolling backward, pushing Ortega out of the way and crushing Whiting, according to the report. Whiting was pronounced dead at the scene.

MSHA found that moisture had frozen the air lines in the parking-brake system so that it did not work properly. But inspectors concluded that "contributing factors" included a failure to block the wheels of the loader, the absence of a pre-operational inspection, road conditions and a lack of hazard training.

"The loader was left unattended on the 8 to 9 percent grade and was not blocked from movement or turned into a bank or berm," according to the report. "Had this requirement been followed, the accident would have been avoided."

MSHA learned from the mine workers that blocking devices are not normally kept on that type of equipment.

MSHA issued a citation to Trimac Transportation Services Inc. for not training Whiting properly. The agency cited C.W. Mining for three violations: lack of an inspection on the loader before it went out, failure to maintain the loader properly and failure to properly block the wheels of the loader.

E-mail: suzanne@desnews.com