Details were few in the initial hours following a fatal accident Tuesday afternoon at Marigold Mine in Humboldt County. By Wednesday afternoon, the names of two who died were released, as well as information that others involved in the accident had not been seriously injured.
At 2:15 p.m. Tues. Oct. 31, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) received a “mayday” call from Marigold Mine requesting all available resources. “At that point, we didn’t know what it was,” Sheriff Mike Allen said.
Multiple medical units from Humboldt General Hospital, including the MedXAirOne helicopter, responded along with units from HCSO, Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) and Nevada Division of Investigations.
“Once we were on scene, we determined that it was a mining accident in which there were fatalities as well as individuals who were injured,” Allen said. Allen said HCSO was investigating jointly with MSHA, and NHP. He explained that NHP was assisting with some diagramming.
On Tuesday, few other details were released; even the number of deaths and injuries had not been released. By Wednesday morning, SSR officials confirmed the nature of the accident as “contact” between one of the mammoth haul trucks in the mine’s pit and a passenger van carrying nine employees.
A news conference was called at 5 p.m. Wed. Nov. 1, at the mine site. SSR Mining, parent company and 100 percent owner of Marigold Mine, released the names of the two employees who were killed in the accident: Pete Kuhn, a safety superintendent, had worked at the mine for about a year and Omar Bernal, an open pit operator, had been at the mine since June.
Peck said the other seven men in the van and the driver of the haul truck were taken to the hospital to be checked out. Some were uninjured, some had minor injuries and were treated and released.
“Pete Kuhn and Omar Bernal were well-respected colleagues and friends of many at the site. We have just come from a meeting with their families and are offering support,” Peck said Wednesday afternoon.
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and other authorities are conducting a comprehensive investigation of the incident. Peck said SSR Mining is cooperating fully and will be conducting its own operational and safety review.
Peck reported that Paul Benson, President and CEO of SSR Mining was on site at Marigold on Wednesday to offer his support. Benson was not at the news conference but his prepared statement was given to the media.
“All of us at SSR Mining are deeply saddened by these tragic events,” Benson’s statement read. “Our immediate focus is on supporting the family and friends of our colleagues during this difficult time. The investigation is going to take some time to complete and we are doing all we can to support those efforts. We would also like to thank the mine rescue team and all those who responded to the incident for their invaluable help.”
Mine operations at Marigold were suspended almost immediately after the accident and remain suspended. Peck gave no estimate of when employees will return to their jobs and the mine will begin operating again. He said mining will resume only when management has conducted a site assessment and employees are briefed to ensure a safe mine restart.
At the news conference, Peck said he would answer any questions regarding the accident, as it was an ongoing investigation, but offered the media contact numbers for the future when more information would be available.