Federal investigation underway after gravel pit collapsed on four workers

Lafarge Gravel Mine Source: Sandoval County Fire Dept

PLACITAS, N.M. (KRQE) – 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 Williams 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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