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Quarry cited in man's death

August 16, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The operator of a limestone quarry near Martinsburg has been cited for a seat belt violation in the death of a truck driver in April, according to a report released Tuesday night by the West Virginia Office of Miners' Safety, Health and Training.

Charles A. "Petie" Wroe, 65, who worked at the quarry for 42 years, died April 25 when the truck he was operating plunged more than 100 feet off a cliff to the bottom of a pit.

The seat belt violation was issued July 11, two weeks after the agency's findings were presented to the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety, agency administrator Terry Farley said.

"Evidence indicates Mr. Charles Wroe was not wearing a seat belt on April 25, 2007 at approximately 2:38 p.m., when he was ejected from the operator's cab of a Caterpillar 777C dump truck," according to the notice of violation included in the investigative report.

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Riverton Investment Corp. operates the quarry at 1826 S. Queen St. for Nazareth, Pa.-based ESSROC, a cement producer that is part of the Italcementi Group. The quarry formerly was operated by Capitol Cement Corp.

ESSROC spokesman Marco Barbesta declined to comment about the report, describing it as preliminary findings. The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration has yet to finalize its report, MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said Wednesday.

Wroe's daughter, Kelly Wroe, said Wednesday that she gained very little insight into why the accident happened.

"It says nothing," she said. "It can just go down as an unexplained accident ... We're just trying to get on with life, basically."

Wroe's wife, Judy M. Wroe, could not be reached for comment.

Charles Wroe was found dead on a haul road about 60 feet from the vehicle, which climbed a berm more than 5 feet in height and rolled several times while falling about 125 feet, according to the report.

The truck was loaded with waste material excavated from the quarry pit. The material was being hauled to a dump site less than a mile away at the quarry, a trip that Wroe had made several times earlier.

"This was to be his last trip for the shift," according to the report.

The report indicates state and federal officials could not find defects in the truck, and another truck operator did not report any problems with the vehicle.

The report also notes that initial examination of the accident site by state and federal agencies, emergency response personnel and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department led investigators to believe that a medical ailment caused Wroe to lose control of the truck. Sheriff's department deputies said they found no evidence indicating Wroe had braked, accelerated or turned the truck suddenly to avoid the berm.

"Visible tire tracks were evident after the accident, showing the truck gently veering into the right berm," according to the report.

An autopsy conducted by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner contradicted the preliminary assessment.

In a signed death certificate, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Hamada Mahmoud indicated he found Wroe had died from multiple injuries.

In an interview about the accident, Wroe's day shift foreman told investigators everything was normal that day.

"Towards the end of the shift, he signaled (Wroe) to ask him if he wanted to work overtime. Pete laughed and signaled 'no,'" according to the report.

The report indicated Wroe had received "annual refresher training" a little more than a month before the accident.

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