An accident that killed a contract worker at the Galena Mine in June was preventable, according to a federal investigation that cited “more than ordinary negligence” on the part of mine operators.
Timothy Allen Bush, 29, died after being struck by a falling rock slab. Bush was a former All-American football player at the University of Montana.
He and his cousin were working on a vertical overhead opening, called a “raise,” at the underground silver mine near Silverton, Idaho, on June 18. When the accident occurred, Bush was using a six-foot-long “scaling bar” to scrape loose rocks from the opening, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. He died of blunt force trauma.
Inadequate management, safety policies and procedures “didn’t protect people working in the raise,” said the MSHA’s accident investigation report, which was released Thursday.
The report said the work area was hazardous, because adequate ground support hadn’t been installed to stabilize the rock. In addition, Bush’s scaling bar wasn’t long enough for him to work out of the range of falling rock, it said.
Bush had been a miner for six years. He worked for United Mine Services, a contractor at the Galena Mine. The company was cited for negligence in the report, along with the Galena’s owner, U.S. Silver Corp.
It’s unclear whether either company will be fined for safety violations. MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said any fines resulting from citations are calculated by the agency’s Office of Assessments, a process that comes later.
Greg Stewart, president of United Mine Services, said he was still reviewing the report and declined comment. Officials at U.S. Silver Corp. could not be reached for comment.
Since the accident, steps were taken to make the Galena safer, the report said. Miners received training on proper scaling methods. Management policies and procedures were established to make sure that workers installing ground support are protected, and some workers received extra training on evaluating rock stability.
Bush was a standout wrestler and football player at Kellogg High School. He went on to play football with the University of Montana Grizzlies as a defensive end from 2000 to 2003. At Montana, he was an All-American and set UM career records with 34 sacks and 50 tackles for loss.
Bush came from a family with strong mining traditions. He thought about teaching P.E. or working in sports medicine, but he came back to the Silver Valley to be close to family members, his sister, Tacey Keylon, said in an earlier interview.