Gravel Pit Dangers

 The Possibilities Around Gravel Pits
Texas School Bus Plunged into a Water-Filled Gravel Pit:
"Stay Out–Stay Alive" - a national public awareness campaign aimed at warning children and adults about the dangers of exploring and playing on active and abandoned mine sites.
Previous Fatal Accident Summaries
Previous "Near Miss" Accident Summaries (2004 - 2008)
Below are some news articles that illustrate the extreme dangers associated with surface mining operations:

May 6, 2008
An 8-year-old boy drowned in Tallahassee, Florida on Tuesday evening in an industrial sand pit while searching for tadpoles. The boy’s parents and the neighbors who tried to revive him are angry that the company has not put up a fence or warning sign around the pit entrance.

"How's an 8-year-old kid going to know he can't go play in the world's biggest sandbox?" said the neighbor who pulled the young victim out of the water.

The boy’s parents said they had no idea a 40-acre pit was so close to their house. It is hidden behind the woods of a neighbor’s backyard.

As it became closer to dinner, the victim’s father called out for his son, thinking he was next door.

Instead, he was met by a neighbor’s 7-year-old son, who was screaming, "[Your son] is dead. Come quick."

"He was saying, '…he was in our pool. I don't think he can breathe,'" the boy’s father recalled.

By the time the victim’s father reached the pit, neighbors were already inside the pit performing CPR on the boy, but they couldn't revive him.

It took about seven people to drag the victim out of the pit, a difficult task because the sand was so slippery.

"As you step, the sand causes you to slide back down," said the father.

One of the parents who tried to rescue the young boy said the water where the drowning occurred was deceiving. It looked shallow, but about 6 feet of water sat on top of about 4 feet of mud. It was like quicksand, he said. When he went in to search for the boy, he became submerged and almost got pulled in. He found the victim’s foot and pulled the boy out.

(Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
February 8, 2008
A 20 year-old Pennsylvania man was electrocuted after coming into contact with a high voltage transformer on Reading Anthracite property in New Castle Township.

Police said the victim was on the property around 11:40 p.m. with another 20-year-old man when he came into contact with high voltage. The other man left the area and called the Schuylkill County Communications Center. New Castle Township police and rescue crews were then dispatched to the area.

After a short search, the victim was found in a fenced area on top of a high-voltage transformer, police said. Icy conditions hampered rescuers efforts to reach him, and police had to contact an electrician to shut off power to the off-road area.
April 6, 2008
A 21 year-old Louisiana drowned after attempting to swim across a pond in a gravel pit in south Washington Parish.

The victim was out with a group of friends, swimming next to the gravel pit when the drowning occurred. He was attempting to swim from one side of the pit to the other, but didn't make it, according to the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office.
April 9, 2008
Boy is killed after playing at rock quarry

A 5-year-old boy died after he slipped while playing on a slope at a rock quarry. According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the boy and his 10-year-old brother were playing near a rock quarry. Family members were conducting business nearby. The two boys tried to climb down a slope comprised of boulders, rocks and cinders. The younger boy fell a short distance and hit a large boulder.

Sheriff investigators investigated determined the death was the result of a tragic accident.
May 11, 2008
The body of an 18-year-old New York man was found in water at the base of a large quarry cliff.

The victim was camping nearby with friends on the cliffs at the Holcim Cement property in Catskill.

The young man was last seen about 2:30 a.m. and his body was found in 25 feet of water about 10:00 a.m. the next day.
May 15, 2008
A 21 year-old Illinois man drowned in an abandoned coal mining pit when the boat he was in began to take on water and started sinking. The victim and a passenger tried to swim to shore, but the 21 year-old man went down and didn't come back up. A rescue team of divers found the victim in the water which was as much as 20 feet deep.

Source: WPSD in Brookport, IL
May 31, 2008
An Indiana teen in town to watch friends at a track meet died Saturday after he jumped into a quarry.

The victim, 18, of Washington, died after he jumped into the Monroe County quarry. A witness called 911 when the teen failed to resurface after jumping into the water. By the time emergency personnel arrived, witnesses said the teen had been underwater for at least 10 minutes.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, Bloomington Hospital Ambulance Service and the Monroe County Dive Team responded to the quarry. The teen was pulled from the water at 5:59 p.m.

Sgt. Troy Thomas said Ayala and two friends had come to town to watch the Indiana state track and field meet in Bloomington. After attending the meet, the three decided to check out the quarry, Thomas said. Police said the three had been at the quarry for about an hour when the incident occurred.

Local quarries have become popular swimming holes over the years, but all are on private property, which makes swimming in them illegal. The waters are inviting pools when the weather is hot, but the holes are filled with unknown debris that can be dangerous.

Indiana Limestone, which owns the property where Rooftop Quarry is located, has worked to discourage swimmers from using the dangerous waters. The company has hired private security, which issues citations to anyone caught trespassing. The road leading to the quarry is also blocked by a gate, and numerous signs throughout the area warn trespassers to keep out.

However, those measures have failed to keep people from entering the quarry area. Thomas said illegal quarry swimmers often feel the police target them, but he recalled a number of drownings during his time with the sheriff’s office. He remembers responding to two drownings in one day. Thomas said Sheriff Jim Kennedy has deputies frequently patrol the quarry areas and ticket violators.

“We try to use the tickets as a deterrence to keep people from getting into extreme incidents like this,” Thomas said.

Deputy coroner Liz Fiato said an autopsy would be performed.

Source: Times-Mail (Bedford, IN)
July 18, 2008

A 14-year-old girl swimming in an off-limits Gloucester Township lake that used to be a sand quarry drowned Friday night in New Jersey, officials said.

About 6 p.m., police were notified that the girl had been in the water with three relatives when she disappeared. That led to a search with township emergency boats, a state police helicopter, and state police divers, who found the body about 9:30 p.m., police said.

"It's a terrible tragedy," Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton said. "It sounded like they just wanted to have fun, [but] she couldn't swim." The victim was a township resident who would have entered Timber Creek Regional High School for ninth grade this year.

Signs at the former quarry, off Cross Keys Road near the Lakeside Business Park and upscale Cobblestone development, forbid water activities.

(Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer)
July 23, 2008

A 28-year-old man drowned in Rocford, Illinois after swimming with friends in the privately owned quarry off limits to the public.

South Beloit firefighter Kurt Fago said the man was in the quarry with three adult friends.

“He slid down the west bank to be near his girlfriend, and he (purposely) slid into the water,” Fago said.

Once in the water, the man “started fighting the water,” Fago said. “All four limbs were waving.”

A male friend dived into the water and tried to pull him out, but the victim started to pull his would-be rescuer under water as well.

“It’s an unfortunate tragedy,” Fago said.

The South Beloit Fire Department called more than 20 area fire departments requesting divers and boats. Officials said the man knew how to swim, and no signs of alcohol were at the scene.

Source: Rockford Register Star
The Marion City Fire Department rescued a 12 year-old boy who was critically injured when he slipped off his bike and fell off a cliff at the former Evans Quarry. The boy suffered a fractured skill and collapsed lung, in addition to other injuries

The city received a 9-1-1 call about 12:45 p.m. saying that a boy was injured at the quarry, location of the city’s Quarry Park. Firefighters reached the boy by boat at 2 p.m. They also helped one boy who had tried to climb down the cliff to help him and another who found another way down and swam to him.

A witness who was fishing with her family, saw him go over the cliff. “Once he hit the water he was right back up,” she said. “He must have hit something.”

Fishing is allowed at the park but swimming is not, a rule that is often broken by people jumping off of the cliffs into the lake.

Source: The News-Item in Shamokin, PA
In Pennsylvania, firefighters pulled an 18-year-old man to safety after he jumped into a quarry and injured his shoulder.

The teen jumped into one of the quarries in West Quincy at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. A friend called for help when the teen hurt his shoulder and could not climb the 30 to 40 feet of rock to get out, Fire Lt. Steven Infascelli said.

Firefighter Chris Murphy swam out to the man and secured him to a life ring. Firefighters used ropes to pull him to safety, Infascelli said.

Source The Patriot Ledger
May 22, 2007
In North Carolina, a teen drowned Sunday while swimming in a rock quarry of Soapstone Mountain Road in Randolph County.

Investigators say four people, including two juveniles, went swimming in the rock quarry, which is on private property. They did not have permission to swim there.

Investigators say at some point before 3:00pm, two of the individuals, including a 15-year-old, decided to swim across the quarry to some rocks on the other side. They were almost there when the teen began struggling and calling for help. The other person was unable to help the teen.

The juvenile went under water for the second time and did not resurface. Witnesses say there was a small delay in calling 911 because there was no cell phone signal.

Randolph County Sheriff's deputies and firefighters from Staley Volunteer Fire Department and the Randolph County Search & Rescue Dive Team went to the scene. Divers searched the quarry until after 10:00pm Sunday evening without success.

They went back Monday morning and found the body of the missing teen just after 10:30am. The body was in 43 feet of water on the bottom of the rock quarry.

(Source: WFMY)
May 28, 2007
A 16-year-old boy drowned in Massachusetts yesterday after plunging into a water-filled quarry that attracts young people despite warnings from authorities to stay away.

The teenager was hanging out with friends at the edge of the quarry when he apparently tripped, said fire officials. He apparently struck his head on an outcropping of rock before hitting the water, officials said.

A team of State Police divers searching the quarry's waters recovered the victim’s body on an underwater ledge about 40 feet below the surface, the officials said.

He was pronouced dead at Milford Regional Hospital at 5:10 p.m.

Fire officials said the quarry, located behind Louisa Lake and an apartment complex, is 120 feet deep in places. It is filled with underwater ledges that make diving and swimming precarious. Even hiking around the quarry is forbidden by local authorities.

"This is a reminder to kids not to be going into that area," said Margaret Care , a Milford Fire Department dispatcher. "You don't know what's in that water. It's a problem every summer."

She said that there are "keep out" postings around the quarries and that local authorities stress its dangers every year.

"But the kids go in there anyway, as soon as it's warm," said Care.

(Source: Boston Globe)
June 5, 2007
A four-year-old Herrin boy died after falling into a strip cut in Missouri.

That's an abandoned mine site that's flooded with water.

The Williamson County Coroner says the child apparently drowned after falling into the cut, which is near his family home.

It happened Monday. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday. A police investigation is underway.

(Source: KFVS)
June 19, 2007
Two teens drowned after jumping from bluffs at a Missouri quarry.

A Monett teen drowned after a jump from a bluff above an Ozarks waterway, the second young man reported to have drowned on Saturday after such a plunge.

The victim was swimming with friends at Big Tebo on Truman Lake near Clinton when he climbed up on the bluff above Old Rock Quarry and dove into the water. The bluff is 30-40 above the water, the report said.

According to his friends, the teen surfaced after the jump and yelled for help.

His friends swam out and brought him back to land, but he was in “full cardiac arrest.” The friends conducted cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, but were not successful.

In a separate incident Saturday afternoon, a 16-year-old boy died after he jumped from a bluff.

According to witnesses, he jumped from the 30-foot bluff and landed on his stomach and side. He resurfaced a short time later and then went back under.

The boy’s body was recovered 30 minutes later and was taken to Baxter Regional Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

(Source: News-Leader (Springfield, MO)
July 10, 2007
A North Carolina Chapel Hill teenager drowned Monday night at an old quarry in the Eno River.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office says the 18-year-old jumped into the water to get an inflatable raft. Once near the raft, witnesses say he called for help and then went under.

The quarry is up to 60 feet deep in some spots. It is estimated to be 35 feet deep where the victim drowned.
September 23, 2007
A twenty-four year-old Texas man was fatally injured when a large rock rolled onto him. The victim and several friends, who were trespassing on a New Braunfels, Texas mine property, were climbing a rock pile around midnight when the accident occurred.
May, 2006
Jordon Lyon went out to play with his little brother and eight-year-old step-sister, Bethany. They headed for a a flooded former mine pit where the dark, brackish waters are more than two metres deep in places.  When Bethany got into difficulties, Jordon somehow got her on his shoulders, but drowned trying to save her; his brave actions abetted by two fisherman who helped get the little girl on to the bank with a net.
A 13-year-old boy walking along a road in Lebanon, Tenn., drowned when he slipped off an embankment and fell into a rock quarry below. The victim’s brother and friend tried to throw a rope to the boy, but couldn’t save him. Divers came out and pulled the boy from the water, which was about 10 feet deep. He was flown to Vanderbilt and died a short time later. (Source: WTVF-TV Nashville)
The mother, her boyfriend and the uncle of a 2-year-old boy who died after he was pulled from a Dayton, Ohio, quarry have been charged with trespassing, according to police. The youngster disappeared into the water as family members were fishing. The mother's boyfriend lost track of the boy while working with two fishing poles he had in the water. The boy's uncle found him face down in the water, pulled him out and gave him to the boyfriend,who started cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The child was rushed to Children's Medical Center in Dayton, where he died. The quarry, in a secluded area, is a popular spot for dirt bikers and fishermen. There are rarely reports of people swimming, but trespassing is common, according to officials. Holes have been cut into fencing that surrounds most of the area. Some cut-out sections offer enough room for vehicles. Even before the boy died, residents at a nearby apartment complex had begun circulating a petition to get the city of Carlisle to put up a fence around the gravel pit. (Source: Dayton Daily News)
An 6-year-old Stratford, N.H., boy died of injuries from an all-terrain vehicle accident nearly two weeks earlier. Fish and Game officials said the victim was pinned under his ATV on July 10 when it rolled over on him in a gravel pit in Stratford. An older boy riding with the victim couldn't lift the ATV and had to ride for help. The youngster was pinned beneath the machine for about 10 minutes. (Source: Associated Press)
Three young boys ages 9, 10 and 12 were trespassing at a sand and gravel mine in Lucasville, Ohio. Although none of them knew how to swim, they began wading in an area with a sand bar about 3 feet deep. The 9-year-old victim stepped off the sand bar into an area 35 feet deep and subsequently drowned.
(Source: MSHA)
Despite quick action by three young onlookers to get help, paramedics could not save a 7-year-old boy who fell into a water pit in Farmington, N.M. The victim was playing near the waters of a rock quarry pit with a friend when he slipped on rocks and fell in, according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Department. The boy apparently was underwater for approximately five minutes before three neighborhood girls ran to a nearby house to call 911. Paramedics tried to resuscitate the boy, but he was pronounced dead at a Farmington hospital. The quarry is fenced in with several gated entryways and signs that read: "No swimming or wading." (Source: Associated Press)
An 8-year-old boy slid down a 60-foot embankment to his death in a water-filled old slate quarry in Northampton Co., Penn. Friends of the youngster ran for help, but rescue workers were unable to revive him. According to police, every year several people are arrested for trespassing at the quarry.
A 10-year-old girl drowned in Surry County, Va., while playing in a sand and gravel pit near her home. The girl lived about a half mile from the pit, a surface mine containing pools of water 30 feet wide and up to about a dozen feet deep. She had been playing at the site with her brother and a female friend when the two girls decided to go swimming, the sheriff said. Authorities did not locate her body until the next morning.

The girl's mother had taken both her children to the sand pit the night before the drowning and told the children it was dangerous to go there.

A 13-year-old Eastland, Texas, boy died after being buried accidentally in a sand pile. The youngster and a friend had been playing in a sand pile at a gravel pit near their homes, according to police. The pair were tunneling on opposite sides of the pile when the victim's end collapsed, burying him from the waist up in damp sand. His friend tried to save him but could not pull him out, authorities said. The friend flagged down a motorist, who performed CPR and called emergency personnel. The victim may have been buried in the sand anywhere from five to 15 minutes. (Source: Mine Safety and Health News)
Two young boys playing in a gravel pit area outside of Manson, Wash., fell through the ice of the partially frozen lake and drowned. Nearly 18 hours after they were reported missing, the boys' bodies were found by a diving crew using an underwater camera. Searchers concentrated on the lake after one of the boys' shoes was found frozen near the surface. The boys apparently went to the lake after school Friday and threw rocks on its surface before walking out onto the ice. They fell in abuot 20 yards from shore, near a spot where there was no ice on the surface. They were discovered about 15 feet apart in about 9 to 10 feet of water.
An 11-year-old boy died when a four-wheel ATV rolled over on him. The boy was riding a 1992 Kawasaki Bayou 300 about 4 p.m. over a dirt mound when it tipped over, striking him in the head. He was not wearing a helmet. An 11-year-old friend was with him at the private gravel pit about two miles west of Star, Idaho. The four-wheeler had a warning stickers indicating that it was not to be ridden by anyone under 16.
Four Year-Old Boy in Colorado Wanders Off to Gravel Pit --- Again!

For the second time in a week, a four-year-old Windsor boy wandered from home only to be found safe.

On Thursday afternoon, the little boy wandered three-quarters of a mile where he was spotted by employees in a gravel pit riding his electric tractor. Gravel pit employees immediately called the police. Police and the boy's parents arrived on the scene almost at the same time. The youth was not hurt although he was getting dangerously close to gravel pit equipment, according to the police report.

Four days earlier, he wandered two miles from home and was found in an area west of Laku Lake near the Poudre River—not far from the gravel pit.

(Source: The Greeley Tribune and the Coloradoan)

Five people were injured when the car they were passengers in plunged 70 feet into a Springfield, WI quarry. The driver was killed in the accident.

The group was leaving the quarry about 10:30 p.m. after watching a fireworks display, Dane County deputies said. The car fell into the quarry and landed on its roof, they said.

Investigators say it's possible that the driver was mistaken about his location on the property, which is not lighted, and inadvertently drove down a road leading to the edge of the quarry, according to Dane County sheriff's spokeswoman Elise Schaffer.

All five passengers, aged 20-22, were taken to University Hospital in Madison, where one is listed in critical condition.

(Source: The Capital Times and TMJ in Milwaukee)
On May 8, a 13-year-old boy fell about 65 feet into a quarry in Delaware Co., Penn. Michael Holland and some friends were walking around the top edge of the Pyramid Materials Quarry in Aston when the ground gave way and the teen tumbled in. He landed on a rock ledge, conscious but hurt. Rescue teams used ladders and rappelled along the quarry wall. They were finally able to get him into a basket and to a waiting ambulance, but not before one of the rescue workers slipped on the craggy rocks in his efforts to lower the basket. Holland suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Three children killed in gravel pit accident
A substantial ingress of sand at a gravel pit, has killed three 12-year old children who were playing there yesterday, fire crews recovered 2 of the bodies quickly but it took a digger and searcher dogs some hours to locate the 3rd child.
A 15-year old boy who was playing with the group managed to extricate himself and raise the alarm.
At 7:30 A.M. on September 21, 1989, in Alton, Texas, a truck hit a Mission school bus, knocking it into a gravel pit at the corner of Five-Mile Road and Bryan Road. Twenty-one children from the Alton area drowned, and sixty were injured. This was the worst school bus accident to date in Texas history.

The bus crash inspired the Russell Banks' story and movie The Sweet Hereafter. The NTSB found that the crash was the fault of truck driver Ruben Perez.

The community of Alton was sued because the gravel pit was not thoroughly barricaded.
Below is an open letter to children from the Federal Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration:


Mine, quarries, sand and gravel pits are not parks or playgrounds.

Stay away from them!

Many different dangers at mines can hurt or even kill you.

Piles of rock, dirt, or sand are not safe to climb or slide on. They can slide down on top of you and cover you up.

Big trucks, trains, and other machines can run over you. If you're close to them, the drivers can't see you. And if they do see someone in the way, it takes a long time for a big truck to slow down and stop.

Power lines, cables, and electric machinery can give you a DEADLY electric shock.

Explosives could go off and hurt you.

Ponds and old quarry pits full of water can drown you. There are no life guards, and dangers can be out of sight under the water.

Mine roads and off-road areas are not safe places to ride a bike or all-terrain vehicle. You could run into hidden pits or other hazards, fall off a steep place, or roll over and be badly hurt.

Underground shafts and tunnels can trap you. You could get lost, fall down a shaft, have rocks fall on you, or run into poisonous gas.
MSHA's Kids Page:


Many old strip mine pits are left with no reclamation work. Persons have drowned in accumulated water, fallen to their death from the top of a pit, or been fatally struck by falling rock when playing or exploring inside a pit.

Abandoned surface mines, quarries, sand pits and other sites present public safety hazards at all times. Stay away from them!

Surface - Dangers

The general public is often unaware of the dangers of mine openings. Potential dangers are falling rock, loose and shifting dirt, and near-freezing water temperatures. In the spring, unstable ground conditions maybe especially prevalent due to thawing of frozen ground.

Old quarry and open pit banks or faces are hazardous, especially if they have not been worked for several years and have gone unscaled and uninspected for possible loose material. They become extremely dangerous during periods of alternate freezing and thawing which widen seams and cracks in the rock and weaken the banks to the point of failure.

The surface around abandoned mine openings, caves, and open pits can collapse without warning. Overhanging ledges or rims of pits and caverns may fall with the slightest increase in pressure. The danger is not only to those who walk too close to the edge but also to anyone who happens to be below.

Quarries are often used as “swimming holes.” There is no way of knowing how deep the water is, and swimming at these sites is especially dangerous. Abandoned strip mines pose additional problems such as subsurface terrain, sharp changes in water depth, and extremely cold water temperatures.

The very nature of quarries and quarrying operations rules them out as places to play. Any child or adult can fall or be struck by falling rock. Deep pools may have submerged rocks. On several occasions, people have broken their necks by diving into these pools.