A top official for the company that owns the crane that collapsed on May 31, 2008, in an accident that injured three workers at a Wyoming coal mine said that it appears the earth shifted under the crane.
Lampson International, based in Kennewick, Wash., manufactured and operated the crane that collapsed on Saturday at the Black Thunder Mine near Wright. Three workers were injured in the accident and two remain hospitalized.
Bruce Stemp, safety director for Lampson International, said it appears the ground shifted under the massive crane as it lifted a piece of conveyor pipe during a construction project.
Stemp said the investigation was progressing slowly because work continues at the mine site.
“The ground was inadequate for the crane and the load,” Stemp said. “It appears that the ground sunk under the crane, and caused the crane to tip over sideways. It’s not official, but it appears that stuff is pointing that way.”
Stemp said the crane, which is designed to be able to lift up to 1,100 tons, cost several million dollars to build. He said it’s too soon to say whether any of the machine will be salvageable. He said the accident investigation has not turned up any indication “that anything was wrong with the crane itself.”
Bill Denning, spokesman for the federal Mine Health and Safety Administration in Denver, said that investigators with his agency were still at the scene of the collapse. He said federal investigators had not yet commented on the cause of the accident, and he declined comment on Stemp’s statement.
St. Louis-based Arch Coal, the parent company of mine operator Thunder Basin Coal Company, has said the conveyor line project was scheduled to be completed by fall 2008 and was estimated to cost about $100 million.
Arch spokesman Greg Schaefer said that he hadn’t heard any discussion that shifting earth under the crane might have caused the accident.
Andrew Milonis, an ironworker injured in the May 31, 2008, accident, remained in critical but stable condition on June 3, 2008, said Mike Phillips, spokesman for the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. Injured worker Federico Salinas remained in stable condition, Phillip said.
Both men work for TIC Wyoming, Inc., a heavy industrial contractor based in Casper. A company spokesman said Milonis, 35, is a resident of Wright and Salinas, 54, is a resident of Brownsville, Texas.
Lampson employee Rodney Loffler was also injured in the accident, the company has said. He was released from a Gillette hospital on June 1, 2008. Stemp said Loffler was one of three operators on the crane.
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