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La Grande Observer 11/28/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow PIT PROBE RESULTS IN CORRECTIVE ACTIONS

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PIT PROBE RESULTS IN CORRECTIVE ACTIONS

The accident that occurred at a gravel pit near La Grande in October has resulted in some corrective actions but no penalty against the pit owners.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, which investigates and enforces rulings on such incidents, has issued its report after an extensive investigation of the Oct. 21, 2002,

accident.

On that date, Judith D. Beeson, 51, who had 24 years' mining experience, was injured when a portion of a dumpsite collapsed, causing the truck she was driving to overturn and fall into the water at a pit. She died from the injuries on Oct. 25.

The La Grande woman sustained serious head injuries at about 2:30 p.m. that Monday when the off-road, 61,800-pound Caterpillar 769B dump truck she was driving flipped, going end over end down a 30-foot embankment and landing on its roof, according to the Union County Sheriff's Office. The truck, carrying 56,000 pounds of material, landed in three to four feet of water.

Fellow R.D. Mac employees removed her from the truck and started CPR before the La Grande Rural Fire Department arrived. Beeson was taken first to the Grande Ronde Hospital, then airlifted to St. Alphonsus in Boise, where she later died of brain injuries.

The federal investigation revealed the accident occurred because the base of the dump site became liquefied and collapsed under the weight of the truck and its load, the report on the incident stated.

A large amount of material that had been dumped the previous week created the instability, the report stated.

It further stated, "The root causes identified during the investigation included the following: failure of the fine sand and clay material to adequately drain, and the inability to recognize the effect that 10 to 15 feet of water already in the bottom of the dump area had on the stability of the fine sand and clay tailings that comprised the base."

The Mine Safety and Health Administration prohibited activity at the dump site until until it had determined that it was safe to resume operations in the pit area. The agency determined on Dec. 19 that conditions that led to the accident no longer existed and normal operations could resume at that pit.

According to the report, a policy was to be established that required a competent person to examine each dump site area prior to work being performed and to identify the slope stability and strength of material.

The report listed as a "casual factor" the company's "inability to recognize the effect that standing water in a pit has on the stability of the dump site area."

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