Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bulldozing Through Plymouth

"Whitman man dies in bulldozer accident in Plymouth" by Astead W. Herndon Globe Correspondent  June 30, 2015

PLYMOUTH — A worker died Tuesday after a mound of sand collapsed “like an avalanche” on the bulldozer he was driving, rescue officials said.

The man, identified as Charles Pace, 65, of Whitman, worked for P.A. Landers Inc., a Plymouth contractor. The accident occurred at a work site at 143 Hedges Pond Road.

Plymouth Fire Chief G. Edward Bradley said Pace was using the bulldozer to load sand onto a conveyor belt. Shortly after 11 a.m., a P.A. Landers employee called 911 after noticing Pace’s vehicle was covered.

“When we got there, all you could see was the back of the truck and two employees on top of the sand mound, digging with hand shovels,” Bradley said.

The bulldozer’s windshield had caved, and the cabin was filled with sand, he said. The fire chief compared the sand avalanche to “the weight of a motor vehicle on your chest.”

“[Pace] likely died of a combination of suffocation and trauma,” he said.

Officials determined the sand slope collapsed while Pace was operating the machine, trapping him inside, Amy Louviere, spokeswoman for the US Mine Safety and Health Administration, said in an e-mail.

Pace was declared dead four minutes after firefighters arrived. Because of the sand, his body was not extricated until after 3 p.m., Bradley said.

The retrieval required 12 firefighters, 30 members of the Plymouth Technical Rescue Team, and several pieces of heavy machinery. At one point, Bradley said, firefighters stationed three lookouts to watch for collapsing sand.

“It got to the point where we couldn’t remove sand fast enough, and it started filling again . . . we had to bring in a vacuum,” he said.

Bradley, a Plymouth firefighter for more than 40 years, said he had never seen an accident like it. Federal officials are constantly inspecting facilities for safety concerns, he said.

“This site had an inspection a few weeks back, and everything went fine,” Bradley said.

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration was overseeing the accident site as the investigation continued.

In an interview, a woman who identified herself as Pace’s wife of 46 years called her husband a “wonderful person.”

Millie Pace said the couple had two daughters and one son.

“I saw him this morning,” she said. “He loved helping people.”

Millie Pace said she is waiting to hear more about the accident’s cause. She said her immediate family went to the accident site, including a son-in-law who works for P.A. Landers.