By TONY RAAP, News-Record Writer email@example.com
Published: Sunday, June 1, 2008 12:28 AM MDT
WRIGHT ��” A large crane collapsed Saturday near Black Thunder coal mine, seriously injuring three men and temporarily blocking a rail line.
Paul Brunner, a trooper with the state Highway Patrol, said one of the injured men was airlifted to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper with head injuries. He said the other two were taken to Campbell County Memorial Hospital.
It wasn’t immediately known how serious the injuries were. Brunner said there were no reports of any deaths in the accident.
Officials said the nearly 400-foot crane came crashing down shortly before 12:30 p.m. at a construction site about seven miles from the mine headquarters.
The men, whose names were not released, were contracted to work at the site but were not Black Thunder employees, said Greg Schaefer, spokesman for Arch Coal, Black Thunder’s parent company.
Officials said about seven other people were treated for minor bumps and bruises, but were not taken to the hospital. It wasn’t immediately clear why the crane collapsed.
“At this point, nobody know’s why,” Campbell County Sheriff’s Deputy C.T. Akers said.
Bill Denning, spokesman for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration in Denver, said federal inspectors were sent from Gillette to the scene.
The crane was being used to build a load-out silo for coal, said Gus Melonas, spokesman for Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF Railway. The crane was moving a 260-foot section of conveyor tube over the railroad when the accident occurred.
Melonas said a 70-foot section of the tubing was blocking the main line after the accident. Material and debris were also blocking a connection off the main line that serves the Black Thunder and Jacob Ranch mines.
The line was expected to reopen Saturday evening. Melonas said there didn’t appear to be any significant damage to the track
The collapse happened near Hilight Road, about 12 miles east of Wright off Highway 450. A pile of crumpled, cream-colored tubes were scattered across the train tracks. Amid the rubble was an overturned blue crane ��” reportedly one of the largest in the world ��” its massive hulk mangled among the debris.
The scene was cordoned off by yellow tape, preventing anyone from getting close to the wreckage. Red and blue emergency lights could be seen off in the distance. Several construction workers in blue hard hats looked on as an emergency helicopter buzzed overhead.
Bruce Stemp, director of safety for crane company Lampson International in Washington State, said his company’s crane was involved. He said company representatives were on their way to the scene.
“At this point, all I can do is confirm that there was an accident up there with the crane, and that is all the information we have,” Stemp said.
The silos, along with a new two-mile long conveyor belt, coal crusher, rail loop and sidings, will replace facilities Arch is now operating at the North Rochelle mine, Schaefer told The News-Record in early May. That mine and its load-out, once owned by Triton, will be taken over in the fall by Peabody Energy, which in 2005 made a coal reserve swap with Arch.
��”The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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