August 1, 2007 The Pump Handle 0Comment

June and July 2007 has been a dangerous and deadly ones for 13 U.S. miners, and their families and co-workers left behind.  So far this summer, 6 mine workers have died at metal mining operations, 4 workers employed at stone quarries and 3 coal miners.  These 11 men were working at mining operations in 11 different States: Alabama, Alaska, California, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon and Tennessee.      

As Mike Wright of the United Steelworkers reminded participants at a recent congressional hearing on mine safety, (his oral statement and written testimony) most on-the-job deaths “normally occur one at a time.  They do not make the national news” but they are no less worthy of public attention and regulatory action. 

The following list represents on-the-job fatal injuries occurring in one small segment of the U.S. workforce over the past 61 days.  I invite anyone with an interest in other groups of workers, such as road crews, construction workers, or firefighters to do the same for a similar post on The Pump Handle. 

In chronological order from the beginning of June 2007 through the end of July 2007, we remember: 

  • June 8, Donavon Ray Dunblazier, 49, of Gilbert, Minnesota who was killed at the Mittal Steel USA’s Minorca mine, an iron ore operation, when the crane he was operating tipped over.  Mr. Dunblazier had 30 years of mining experience. 
  • June 12, Clark Gamble, 45, who died at the Granite Construction Co’s Felton Quarry in Santa Cruz County, California.  The 45 year-old worker was hired to do reclamation work at a mining waste dump, and was killed when a large vertical wall of clay collapsed on him. (Santa Cruz Sentinel) Prior to this fatality, the mine operator had not reported a single injury or illness to MSHA since August 2002.  MSHA routinely conducted two inspections per year at this operation; the operator was cited in 2005 for two violations of safety standards and received two $60 penalties.
  • June 13, Skeets Myrick, 45, who was killed at the Mississippi Lime Peerless Mine in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri.  The 45-year old welder was working with others to install a section of 42-inch diameter pipe.  The pipe shifted and it struck him in the head causing serious injuries.  He died six days later.
  • June 19, Dan Shaw, 30, who was an underground blaster at the Newmont Mining Company’s Midas Gold Mine.  He  was operating an LHD when the ground collapsed.  Mr. Shaw and the equipment fell into a deep void where he perished.  His body was not recovered until July 2. (TPH coverage here)
  • July 2,  Eddie Linton, 59, who was fatally struck by a pick-up truck at the Twin Pines Coal Co. surface mine in Cullman County, Alabama.  The mine is the largest surface mining operation in the state, according to the Birmingham News.   Prior to Mr. Linton’s fatal accident, MSHA conducted three spot inspections at the mine in May and June 2007 and issued one citation and one order.
  • July 16,  Bobby L. Messer, 40, who was a mechanic at the Pike County, Kentucky Three Mile Mine #1.  He was fatally injured when struck by fly rock from a blasting operation a quarter-mile away.  Mr. Messer, a coal miner with 20 years of experience, had just completed his shift and was in a parking lot.  The fly rock that killed him came from an adjacent mining operation.  Mr. Messer is survived by a wife and three children.
  • July 18, Kent L. Raikes, 42, who died at the Lyman-Richey Sand & Gravel pit in Douglas County, Nebraska when the front-end loader he was operating submerged into a dredge pond.  The area had a sandy bank which sloughed off, submerged the loader and the miner was trapped inside.  Mr. Raikes had 19 years of mining experience.
  • July 19, Craig Bagley, 27 and Tyler Kahle, 19, who were contractors from an ironworking crew when they died at the NovaGold Resources’ Rock Creek gold mine near Nome, Alaska.  The men were working about 50 feet off the ground in a lift basket when the equipment collapsed and toppled to the ground. (TPH coverage here)
  • July 24, Mark Sinker, 57, who worked for nearly 30 years at Delta Sand & Gravel in Lane County, Oregon.  Mr. Sinker drowned when his haulage truck went over a single-lane bridge on the quarry property and into the Willamette River.  He is survived by his parents, his wife, two sons, a daughter and one grandchild.  The local tv station has a lovely tribute to Mr. Sinker (here)
  • July 29, Daniel E. Frederick, 28, who was a contract-employee working at East Tennessee Zinc near Mascot, Tennessee .  He was killed while working inside a mine shaft on a job to replace structural steel on the unit.  Mr. Frederick was employed by Cowin & Company a mining-engineering firm from Birmingham, Alabama that was hired by East Tennessee Zinc to help them reactivate the Immel mine.
  •  July 30, Mike Ivins, 55, who was working as a mechanic at an underground copper mine near Troy, Montana when a rock fall collapsed onto his pick-up truck fatally killed him.  Two other miners who were working near Mr. Ivins escaped the collapse and tried to rescue him from beneath the rocks.  An article by Michael Jamison of the Missoulian describes why his co-workers called Mike Ivins Sunshine
  • July 30, Wade Drew, 27, who was working on the roof of a Jim Walter Resources coal facility near Adger, Alabama, when he fell 22 feet to his death. 

The information provided comes from a variety of sources and in some cases the available data was quite sparce.  If you have additional information about these men which would be appropriate to post here, please send it to us using the “Comments” section below.

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