Federal officials investigate fatality at cement plant Worker, 41, was crushed in railroad car accident

July 03, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Federal investigators were at Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Carroll County yesterday, after a 41-year-old employee was crushed by a railroad car while operating a sweeping machine beneath the plant's silos.

Ronald L. Stewart, 41, was pronounced dead Wednesday afternoon at the scene of the accident, in the shipping area of the plant on Main Street in Union Bridge, according to state police in Westminster.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration is investigating the fatality, said David Roush, Lehigh's plant manager since January 1985. It was the plant's first death since the early 1980s, he said.

"The roads are kept swept on paved surfaces in and around the plant," Roush said, but he didn't know why Stewart would be in one of the four passageways -- also called tunnels or draw-throughs -- below the 32 silos where trucks and railroad cars are loaded.

The locomotive was driven by one of Lehigh's 200 employees, who was at the opposite end of a string of several cars, he said.

"Some rail cars came in one tunnel to be loaded and apparently the sweeper, Mr. Stewart, drove the sweeper into that tunnel for reasons we don't know," he said. "They were moving the cars as part of the loading process and the car struck the sweeper, and he was in it, in the cab, and as a result of the impact, he was killed," Roush said.

Stewart lived in Union Bridge and had worked for the company for about seven years as a serviceman, "sort of a do-whatever-needs-to-be-done," said Roush.

"Why was he where he was?" Roush asked. "Generally speaking, he's not supposed to be in that area when cars are being moved around. We don't know anything. Was he asked to do that? Did he do it on his own? Did he know?

"We just don't know. It's hard on people, very hard."

Pub Date: 7/03/98

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