Mine worker believed dead after collapse in Sumter County

WEBSTER–A recovery effort is under way in Sumter County after a mine collapse.Officials said they believe 35-year-old Kenneth James Stephens, Jr., is dead inside the collapsed Mazak Mine, near state roads 50 and 471, in the area of Webster.

According to officials, workers performed a routine blast to the lime pit just after noon Thursday. When Stephens approached the area to inspect, about 30 feet from the blast area, the ground gave in causing him to fall into the pit.

There was no visible sign of Stephens when emergency crews arrived at 12:20 p.m.

The mining operation is going to build a berm around the pit. Once it is completed, they will begin pumping the water down and excavate the sight.

At one point, 10 units were on the scene with trench rescue and confinement space units.

Several agencies have responded to the collapse, including:

  • Sumter Dive Team
  • Lake-Sumter Fire Department
  • Lake-Sumter Medical Services

Stephens, from Beverly Hills Fla., was employed by Austin Powder Company who is a subcontractor for Mid-Coast. Mr. Stephens has been on the blast crew for the past 11 years and has been on over 1000 blasts.

The Mazak mine sits on 400 acres, and is one of six limestone mines in the county.

It was first opened in 1999 by Paul Mazak II, a Sumter County native, who died in a plane crash in 2009 while returning from a hunting trip in Texas.

Representatives from OSHA and The Mining Safety and Health Administration are currently investigating.



About this entry