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Marigold Mining Company
Marigold Mine Powered Haulage Accident

Valmy, Humboldt County, Nevada
October 31, 2017
No. Killed - 2

MSHA Final Investigation Report  External Link


Pete Kuhn, a 60-year-old Safety Superintendent, and Omar Bernal, a 39-year-old Truck Driver, were killed on October 31, 2017, when a loaded 340-ton haul truck ran over their van.

The accident occurred because management did not ensure miners followed policies, procedures and controls on communicating with heavy mobile equipment in a congested area.  The van driver did not communicate with the haul truck driver when he parked the van adjacent to the haul truck.  Traffic rules were not effective to ensure heavy mobile equipment was aware of all traffic in a congested area.


On October 31, 2017, Pete Kuhn (victim) arrived at the Marigold Mine at 4:40 a.m.  Kuhn met Ryan Ispisua, Senior Safety Coordinator, and they began the day by inspecting the rescue truck.  Kuhn and Ispisua went from there to perform a pit inspection and returned to the office around 7:30 a.m.  Kuhn attended a safety department meeting with Ispisua, Mark Langston, Safety Manager, and Shane Anderson, Senior Safety Coordinator, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Omar Bernal (victim) arrived at the Marigold Mine at approximately 5:30 a.m. and went to the site access building. Although Bernal had worked at the mine before as a temporary employee, this was his first day as a Marigold employee. Seven additional new employees joined Bernal and were escorted from security to the safety training room around 6:00 a.m. to begin in-processing.  Kuhn checked in on the group’s progress periodically through the morning.  Kuhn returned to the HR room around 12:30 p.m. after his safety meeting, but found the group had not completed all of their paperwork.  Kuhn took a lunch break then went to the warehouse to gather Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the new employees, in preparation for a tour of the mine.

Kuhn returned to the HR room, handed out the PPE and then he and the eight new employees got into van #1176 to begin an introductory mine tour.  Around 1:40 p.m., witnesses observed the van travel around the process area and continue toward the Section 20 shops and yard.

At 1:12 p.m., haul truck #475 descended the Section 20 ramp and started to slide. The driver was able to stop the truck using the service brakes and the berm on the left side of the road, and came to rest about 300 feet uphill from the Section 20 ramp, and the lower Section 29/M5 intersection (hereafter referred to as “the intersection”).  Under company policy, when a driver uses the service brake at a speed over five miles per hour, the truck is secured in place until mechanics check to make sure the service brakes have not been damaged.  The haul truck was traveling over five miles per hour when the driver had to apply the service brakes, so the driver could not move the truck until a mechanic could examine the brakes.  As a result, the dispatcher suspended traffic on the Section 20-ramp and Larry Dowd, Shifter, went to the area to manage the scene.  When Dowd arrived, he found the haul truck partially blocked the road.  He set up road blocks using mobile equipment - one roadblock just above the spun-out truck, and one near the intersection just below the spun-out truck.  Dowd also helped the dispatcher reroute traffic and clear the pit in preparation for the blast scheduled for 2:00 p.m., while he continued to monitor the haul truck.

Coty Munson, Haul Truck Operator 1, was operating haul truck #481, hauling rock from the pit up to the cell 21 leach pad when the call to suspend traffic went out.  Munson stopped his truck on the 29-ramp, approximately 0.4 miles downhill from the intersection.  During his interview, Munson recalled Dowd calling over the radio telling him to take his load back down to the bottom of the pit.  Munson turned the truck around and began to return to the Mackay 2 pit.  At 1:46 p.m., Munson called dispatch and asked for permission to go to the cell 21 leach pad since they were clearing the pit to blast and he did not want to take his load all the way to the pit to dump.  Dispatch called him back and gave him permission to go to cell 21 leach pad once the road was re-opened. Munson continued to wait for the spun-out truck to be cleared.

Around 1:50 p.m., Kuhn began to drive the van from Section 20 toward the pit.  The van was allowed to pass through the first roadblock set up on 20-ramp and proceeded downhill toward the spun-out haul truck and the pit.  Kuhn stopped and talked briefly to Dowd, asked if everything was okay and requested permission to go into the pit so the new employees could observe the 2:00 p.m. blast.  Dowd told Kuhn they could go ahead and mentioned the area was congested.  Dowd called the roadblock at the intersection on the radio at 1:56 p.m. and said “a white van is coming through your area, please let them through.” Kuhn drove around the spun-out haul truck, and then passed through the roadblock at the intersection of the 20-ramp and the 29-ramp.  Audio recordings of radio transmissions did not contain any radio calls from the van as it approached the haul truck. The mine operator has a policy that states that all small vehicle operators must make radio contact when approaching or passing large surface mining equipment.  Kuhn parked the van facing roughly south, on the right side of the haul truck.  While the van was parked, the group inside was talking.  Taylor Kesterson, one of the new employees, got out of the van to see if she could get a better view of the blast but returned to the van because she could not see over the berm.

Sometime between 1:57 p.m. and 2:04 p.m., Mark Kirklie, Lead Driller, and four passengers traveled in another van up from the pit set up a roadblock for the blast, about 100 yards, from Munson’s truck (haul truck #481).  According to Kirklie, both haul truck #481 and van #1176 were parked when he set the roadblock.  In his statement, Kirklie said the van was parked to the right of and slightly ahead of the haul truck.  Kirklie and the four other passengers in van #1119 were able to see both van #1176 and truck #481.

Munson watched from the cab of his truck as Kirklie set up the roadblock, approximately 100 yards in front of him.  Dowd called on the radio to let the dispatcher know the road was reopened and at 2:05 p.m., the dispatcher alerted miners that haul truck #475 was cleared from the road and 29-ramp was open.  Munson looked at the screen on the radio to verify the call had come from the dispatcher and since he had received permission earlier to take his load to the cell 21 leach pad, Munson decided to start moving the truck.  He said he looked in his mirrors and did not see the van.  Earlier, he saw a white van pass by him but did not hear anything over the radio about any other equipment near his truck.  Munson honked his horn twice, put the truck into forward gear, released his brake and began to turn sharply to the right to make the U-turn to go back uphill to the cell 21 leach pad.  He applied the throttle and felt hesitation.  Munson heard “481 stop, stop, stop” over the radio and immediately stopped the truck.

According to interviews, the occupants inside of van #1176 saw the truck begin to move and turn toward them.  Kuhn yelled at the group to get out.  Interviewees stated Kuhn was reaching towards the dash, trying to possibly move the vehicle or perhaps call over the radio to stop haul truck #481.  Jacob Jakich, who was sitting on the bench seat behind Kuhn, was the first person out of the van.  He reported miners inside the van were having trouble opening the double doors on the passenger side of the van.  Bernal was sitting in the front passenger seat of the van.  Jakich climbed over Bernal to get out of the front passenger door.  Jakich opened the side doors from the outside then ran around the front of the van to try and get the driver’s (haul truck #481) attention but, was unable to do so.  The passengers in the rear of the van were able to help each other get out through the side doors, or through a side window.  Bernal and Kuhn did not escape before the truck ran over the front of the van.

Three individuals in van #1119, including Kirklie, heard truck #481 honk its horn and saw it begin to turn.  Kirklie yelled over the radio “481, 481 stop, 481 stop!” but was too late.  Kirklie then called “Mayday” over the radio and ran uphill to the accident scene to help.  When he arrived, he saw that the passengers who were able to get out of the van were not seriously hurt.  He checked the front passenger side of van #1176 and saw one person was crushed.  He quickly went to the driver’s side under the truck and found another person also was crushed.

Dowd arrived at the accident scene and took control.  First responders arrived and began to treat the passengers outside of the van.  Alan Sturtz, a passenger in the van, received a leg injury.  Other than the victims, he was the only other person physically injured in the accident.  Sturtz was transported to the hospital in Winnemucca, Nevada, for treatment.  The other six passengers of the van and the haul truck driver, Munson, were taken to medical facilities in Battle Mountain and Winnemucca, Nevada and were evaluated and treated for shock.

The Humboldt County Sherriff’s Office, Nevada Highway Patrol, Fire Departments from Valmy and Winnemucca and Emergency Medical Services responded to the site.  The operator developed a plan to safely move the haul truck to recover the victims.  Detective Victor Castaneda, Coroner, pronounced Omar Bernal dead at 12:20 a.m. and Pete Kuhn dead at 12:45 a.m. on November 1, 2017.

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