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Christensen Construction Company
Arizona Precast Concrete Bin Collapse

Maricopa City, Pinal County, Arizona
July 24, 1952
No. Killed - 5

USBM Accident Investigation Report  PDF Format

100 Tons of Rock Kills Five Arizona Quarry Workers
Arizona Republic, Phoenix
July 25, 1952

Apache Junction, July 24. -- Five men died from suffocation shortly after noon Thursday under approximately 100 tons of crushed rock when a loading platform gave way at the open-pit mine three miles southwest of Canyon Lake just west of Apache Trail.  It was the worst mine disaster on record in Arizona.

Miraculously, two other men escaped being engulfed by the rock.

A black and white mongrel dog buried under the body of one of the victims was alive when rescued.  Another dog was instantly killed in the slide.

The dead, all employees of the Christensen Construction Company, Salt Lake City, are:
  • Walter Faidley, 52, Apache Junction
  • James W. Pennington, 51, Mesa
  • Floyd E. Nicholson, 51, Apache Junction
  • Ray Cox, 35, and his brother, Alvin J. Cox, 27, Mesa
The men were pinned beneath the avalanche of rock, timbers and debris as they ate lunch in a truck-loading chute beneath the hopper, located nine miles north of Apache Junction.

The crushed rock, taken from a quarry about 300 feet behind the chute, is used in making construction blocks.

The two who escaped are, John Dalzell, about 50, and Ruperet N. Thomas, both of Apache Junction.  Thomas was acting foreman on the job.

An iron brace across the bottom of the loading platform gave way during the morning.  Thomas said it would take a welder to fix it and that the men might as well lay off the rest of the day.

The men decided to eat their lunches before going home, he said, and sought the only available shade on the rugged, treeless mountain side, under the loading platform.

Dalzell told this story:
I was about four and a half feet inside the tunnel, under the platform itself.  We had just started to eat.  All of a sudden, without any warning, there was a sound like a terrific blast.  I threw myself out and away from the inside of the thing and all it caught was my feet.  If I'd been another foot farther under the platform, I couldn't have gotten clear.
Thomas had not started to eat.  Dalzell was cut on the forehead.  He also had a lacerated finger.

Immediately after the slide, Dalzell and Thomas began digging, then realized, Dalzell said, they could do nothing alone.

Thomas drove to the Salt River Valley Water Users phone to call for help while Dalzell stayed at the scene.

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