1 person killed, 1 injured at Arizon mine

A 53-year-old miner was killed and another seriously injured Sunday when a 240-ton hauling truck ran over their pickup at the Asarco LLC Ray mine east of Florence, according to preliminary accident reports.

Thomas E. Benavidez, a diesel mechanic at the open-pit mine, was killed instantly in the 10 a.m. accident, while another worker was taken to a hospital with severe injuries, said Tim Evans, assistant mine inspector for the state.

Two inspectors from the Arizona Mine Inspector’s office are looking into the accident, he said, and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration also is investigating.

It appears that Benavidez and another mechanic, William Hyde, pulled in front of the large hauling truck, and the driver of the hauling truck could not see their pickup, Evans said.

The early reports do not indicate whether Benavidez or Hyde was driving.

“These haul trucks are literally two to three stories tall,” Evans said. “They have blind spots. The pickup was broadsided and the haul truck rolled over the pickup with the two employees inside.”

Miners were able to extricate Hyde from the wreckage. The extent of his injuries was not available, Evans said.

The federal accident report from MSHA said Benavidez had eight years of experience, three at the Ray mine.

That report listed his age as 52, although federal and state officials said their reports are preliminary and details are subject to change, especially personnel data not readily available from the remote site on the weekend.

“Our prayers and sympathy go out to family members, friends and co-workers who are affected by this loss,” Asarco President and Chief Operating Officer Manuel Ramos said in a prepared statement.

The death was the second in Arizona this year and the 11th nationwide for the mining industry excluding coal mines, according to MSHA. Coal mines have lost 38 workers so far this year.

The other Arizona mining fatality this year was Jan. 9 at the Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Miami Mine, when an employee working for Ames Construction Inc. of Phoenix was killed, according to MSHA.

Estevan R. Benavidez, 20, was killed when a 400-foot-long section of 24-inch diameter pipe fell and struck him, according to the report.

Mining deaths fell to an all-time low in 2009. But after a large accident that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia earlier this year, 2010 will not repeat that record.

Already, 49 miners have died in coal and other mines in the U.S. this year, according to MSHA.

In 2009, coal mines recorded 18 deaths, and other mines recorded 16, for a total of 34 (one in Arizona).That was down from 53 nationwide in 2008.


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