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Man dies at W.Va. quarry

April 26, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A 65-year-old man who was operating a large dump truck at a limestone quarry south of Martinsburg died Wednesday after the vehicle went through a berm and plunged more than 100 feet off a cliff to the bottom of a pit, authorities said.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene by Berkeley County Medical Examiner David Brining shortly after he arrived at 3:20 p.m., and investigators suspect a medical condition led to the man's death.

The quarry at 1826 S. Queen St. is operated by ESSROC and company Director of Communications Marco Barbesta said officials from the plant were dispatched to notify the man's family. He said he could not release the man's name.

"There's a sadness when something like this happens," Barbesta said

As of March 2007, Barbesta said about 170 hourly and salaried workers were employed at the quarry at 1826 S. Queen St., which formerly was operated by Capital Cement and Martin Marietta.

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Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Sgt. W.A. Johnson said Wednesday there was no evidence that the truck driver braked or accelerated or turned suddenly before breaching the cliff's edge.

"The (wheel) tracks just go straight," Johnson said. "We're suspecting medical issues with the driver."

Responders from Berkeley County Ambulance Authority and Martinsburg Fire Department found the man thrown from the truck shortly after they were dispatched at 2:48 p.m., Brining said.

Johnson said another employee was operating a front-end loader at the bottom of the pit, but off to one side, when he looked up and saw the dump truck coming down the cliffside, possibly falling as much as 200 feet.

Johnson said the accident victim was well-respected and had been employed at the quarry for 30 to 40 years and was the only person assigned to drive the truck.

Investigators from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration were at the site late Wednesday afternoon, MSHA spokesman Dirk Filpott told The Associated Press. Investigators from the state mine safety agency were en route to the site, Gresham said.

Headquartered in Nazareth, Pa., ESSROC is a cement producer with operations throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The company is part of the Italcementi Group.

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