July 11, 2017
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a Report of Investigation about a fatality that occurred at Linwood Mine in Iowa on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. A 52-year-old haul truck driver, Ronald G. Trich, Jr., was fatally injured when he left his truck and crossed over a berm barricading an area of the underground limestone mine from entry, where a portion of the rib collapsed and buried him. He was found on a spoil pile under freshly fallen material at approximately 9:45 p.m., at which time the Buffalo Fire Department, Buffalo Police Department, and Scott County Sheriff’s office were notified. The Scott County Medical Examiner pronounced him dead at the scene due to mechanical asphyxiation at 3:30 a.m. on January 26.
MSHA Inspector William Poynter arrived at the site at 9:45 p.m. on January 25 to begin investigating the cause of the accident. An accident investigation team arrived at the mine the following day and, with the cooperation of mine management and employees, examined the accident scene, reviewed documents, including training records, interviewed employees, and reviewed company procedures.
Investigators believe Trich was searching for crystals when the rib failure occurred, as he was known to collect them and a small hatchet and pry bar were found with him in the spoil pile during recovery. Investigators also found crystals in Trich’s haul truck and on his person. Management had issued warnings to Trich twice before for going into barricaded areas to look for crystals, and fellow miners had warned him as well.
Management installed berms around areas they deemed dangerous to prevent access, and miners were trained not to cross over those berms or enter bermed off areas. MSHA’s review of training records, training materials, and investigative interviews indicated that miners had been trained the purpose of berms and barricades and the type of hazard that could exist beyond them, and were instructed not to cross them.
The investigation concluded that the accident occurred because the safety protocols and training in place at the mine were not being followed.
MSHA’s investigation into the accident determined the following root cause and corrective actions: