Brandon Gray, 26, was working to build a new shaft in the Lucky Friday mine when crushed rocks swallowed him. He died two days later.
A report by the Mine Safety and Health Administration says Gray and another miner, who was injured, were issued the wrong restraint and weren’t trained properly.
“The lifelines used were designed for an unobstructed fall path,” the report says. “When the material suddenly flowed and the victims fell, there was not sufficient speed to cause the self-retracting lifelines to lock before the victims were engulfed in the material.”
Jim Sabala, senior vice president of Hecla, which owns the mine, says his company will be reviewing the report’s conclusions, and will continue to work with contractor Cementation U.S.A.
“They are experts in this business and they were using the best available technology to our knowledge and so we will rely on them and we will also review the matter,” Sabala says.
Gray was an employee of Cementation, which was hired to build the mine’s new No. 4 shaft. The shaft would reach down to 8,800 feet and keep the mine producing silver past 2030.
All work at Lucky Friday was stopped by MSHA in January after inspectors found built-up sand on one of the shafts. They ordered it be cleaned from top to bottom, a process that Sabala says will get the mine back up and running early next year.
Laurie Gray, Brandon Gray’s mother, declined to comment on the report, citing legal action. In an interview earlier this year, she characterized her son’s death as a freak accident.
Says Sabala: “There are lots of procedures that will be changed as a result of this.”