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Mine Disasters in the United States


Vulcan Materials Company
La Farge Gravel Mine Rescue

Placitas, Sandoval County, New Mexico
June 29, 2017
No. Killed – 0

Successful Rescue

Two workers became trapped while working on equipment at the La Farge gravel mine.  Attempting their rescue, two others also became engulfed in the material.  Two of the workers were buried up to their necks, a third to his chest and the fourth to his waist when emergency personnel arrived.  The last man was freed from his confines 6 hours after the incident occurred.


Workers trapped in Placitas gravel pit rescued
KOB Channel 4 Television
By Danielle Todesco
June 30, 2017

Placitas, N.M. -- Four workers trapped in a gravel pit near Placitas overnight have been rescued and are at the hospital Friday morning.

Sandoval County Fire Department officials say gravel caved in on two men at the La Farge gravel mine while they were trying to fix equipment in the pit.

Two others went in to rescue them and all four became trapped.

Emergency crews received calls about the collapse around 5:03 p.m. Thursday.

Two of the workers were buried up to their necks, a third to his chest and the fourth to his waist when emergency personnel arrived, Fire Chief James Maxon said.

By around 8 p.m., two of the workers had been rescued and transported to a hospital, one by air and the other by ground.  Crews worked to extricate the others, working in 20-minute shifts to remove rock by hand.

Maxon said more collapses made the rescue effort a slow process.  Rescue teams from Rio Rancho, Sandoval County and Albuquerque Fire responded.

Medical crews monitored the trapped miners' vitals with every dig.

"We actually have our EMS physicians on scene helping us with patient care," Sandoval County Fire Chief James Maxon said.  Medically, rescuers were most concerned about the trapped men's lungs being able to expand enough, along with circulation concerns.

Sandoval County Fire Department officials confirmed the other two workers were extricated by 11:06 p.m.

"The nature of this incident is currently being assessed and first responders are attending to our employees," Barbara Goodrich-Welk, projects and external affairs manager at Vulcan Materials Company, said in a statement.  "The safety and welfare of our employees are our first priority at Vulcan.  We are committed to providing a safe workplace for our more than 7,500 employees."


Fire chief recounts rescuing four men from mine cave-in near Placitas
Rio Rancho Observer
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
By Stephen Montoya
June 30, 2017

Placitas, N.M. -- County and outlying fire and rescue units rushed into action after receiving a call that four men were trapped due to a mine cave-in near Placitas at the Vulcan/Lafarge Mine Thursday evening.  Sandoval County Fire Chief James Maxon said he was the first to arrive at the scene.

“The call came in at about 5:03 (Thursday) and when I arrived there were four workers trapped in a mixture of sand and gravel,” Maxon said.  “The first two were buried up to their necks, another worker was buried up to his shoulders and another was buried up to his waist.”

According to Maxon, the men were working in an area where the mine’s materials are separated when one of the 30-foot-tall piles shifted and buried the first two men up to their necks.

“The second two men went in to try and save the first two men and that’s how they got caught up,” Maxon said.

Since the pile was made up of mostly sand, he said, the area the men were stuck in was not very stable and continued to shift as first responders tried figuring out a method to extract the men.

“This was a very unique and rare call,” Maxon said.  “I told many of the first responders that were there that this could be one of those once-in-a-career type incidents.”

Maxon said his main goal was to make sure the trapped men were breathing, and that they had enough air around their heads.

“I called for a lot of resources, because I knew it was going to be very labor intensive to get them out,” Maxon said.  Close to 60 first responders were in attendance to help dig the men out, he said.

“We had to dig them out by hand because initially the tractor we were using was causing too much vibration,” Maxon said.  “That’s why it took six hours to free the men because we had to be cautious and do everything by hand.”

Three of the men were flown to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque he said, and one of the men was transported by ambulance.

“The latest information that I have is that all of them men are doing well, and that two of them have been released from the hospital,” Maxon said Friday morning.  “This is another success for the relatively new regional tech-rescue response team that started between the City of Rio Rancho, Corrales, and Sandoval County.”


Federal investigation underway after gravel pit collapsed on four workers
KRQE News - Channel 13
By Rebecca Atkins
June 30, 2017

Placitas, N.M. -- Federal investigators are still on scene Friday evening at the Vulcan Gravel Pit in Placitas to figure out how a collapse buried four workers.

Sandoval County Fire officials say it happened around 5:30 p.m. Thursday when one of the gravel piles shifted, partially burying one of the men up to his waist, another to his chest, and two more up to their necks.

The men were rescued several hours later after crews assembled a contraption to stabilize the pit.

“One of the things about the rescue was that it was a very delicate task, very meticulous task, because every time we would move sand it would shift sand somewhere else and so it took six hours to do it,” Sandoval County Fire Chief James Maxon said.

Investigators with the Mine Safety and Health Administration said one of the two men who tried rescuing the initial two workers, freed himself and called 911.  Moments later he became trapped again.

“They were working in an area where there was material that was piled up 30 to 40 feet in the air,” said Maxon.

A spokesperson with the Mine Safety and Health Administration said they now know what caused the collapse.

“There was a large pile of material with a feeder underneath and they were trying to clear that to continue the feed of material,” said William O’Dell with the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

One of the workers broke his leg in three places.  Three of the men are still in the hospital, and one has since gone home.

Friday, the Vulcan Materials Company released the following statement:
Vulcan Materials Company responded to an incident involving four employees at our Placitas, New Mexico facility, which occurred yesterday (June 29, 2017) at approximately 5:00 PM local time.  We are grateful to report that all four employees involved in the incident are recuperating or receiving treatment.

Vulcan would like to thank the multiple agencies—including the fire departments from Sandoval County, Rio Rancho, Corrales and Albuquerque—that were involved in the response to this incident.  We are grateful for their service, professionalism and expertise.

While Vulcan’s efforts last night were focused on the safe recovery of our employees, our focus has now shifted to investigating what took place yesterday and our priority is the well-being of our employees and their families.

Vulcan is working cooperatively with regulatory officials, in concert with our safety and health team, to determine the cause of this incident and to enact any preventive measures that are required.

Earlier this morning, our local employees took part in a “safety stand down,” a gathering to discuss what occurred yesterday and to address safety in the workplace.



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