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Barrick Gold Exploration
Storm Decline Heat Stress Incident

Elko, Nevada
October 17, 2002
No. Killed - 2



USMRA member, Theodore Clayton Milligan, and Dale R. Spring die in rescue related accident.

Final Accident Investigation Report  External Link

In the News . . .

October 25, 2003
By Adella Harding
Free Press Staff Writer

ELKO - Neutronics Inc.'s chairman and chief executive officer, Terry Halpern, said Thursday a lawsuit families filed against his company over two mine fatalities has no merit, and the suit took him by surprise.

"There is no question we will blow this lawsuit out of the water," said Halpern, citing U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration findings that Dale Spring, 49, of Spring Creek and Theodore Milligan, 38, of Elko failed to insert cooling packs into their breathing apparatus.

Our people are very hurt and dismayed over this, he said in a telephone interview from Pennsylvania.

Halpern said employees of Biomarine Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Neutronics, knew the two miners who died, and they were saddened by their deaths, but the fault wasn't with the equipment.

Spring and Milligan died after checking out Barrick Gold Exploration's Storm underground decline on the Carlin Trend last year at Barrick's request.  They were part of an experienced rescue team that was combining the assessment of Storm with a drill.

The team worked for Barrick Goldstrike Mines Inc.  The exploration arm of Barrick Gold Corp. is exploring the Rossi Project, using the Storm decline.  The portal is in the wall of the Dee open pit no longer being mined.

Storm had been shut down for a couple of years so there was no ventilation, and the temperatures were as high as 104 degrees.  Spring and Milligan were overcome by the heat and lack of oxygen, according to MSHA.

Safety inspectors immediately took all the breathing equipment they were using for testing, and Halpern said the two men hadn't installed frozen Gel-Pak/Gel Tubes in their apparatus that were crucial to cool the air they breathed.

"They also hadn't shaved their goatees as required for a good seal," Halpern said.

MSHA's findings say the same thing, and MSHA cited Barrick for failure to see that the men had installed their frozen packs and taken the necessary safety precautions.

Barrick also was blamed for not having adequate communication between the men inside Storm and the surface.

John Echeverria of Reno, an attorney for Cynthia Milligan and family, said earlier this month that the manufacturer should design the equipment so it doesn't work without the frozen packs so users are immediately aware they haven't installed them.

He also said he and the Spring family lawyer, Thomas Brennan of Reno, have "some issues" with the MSHA findings on the fatalities.

Halpern said Neutronics has been in business since 1988 and supplied "thousands and thousands" of its breathing apparatus over the years without a fatality, prior to the Storm deaths.

"No one forgets to put a Gel-Tube in these," Halpern said.

Halpern also said his company hadn't received a copy of the lawsuit and only learned of it through news stories.  They then obtained a copy from the Elko County Courthouse.

The families of the two victims are asking for compensation for their pain and suffering and punitive damages over the deaths of the two men, and they maintain the manufacturer of the Biopack self-contained breathing apparatus was at fault.

The lawyers also cite inspection reports on the equipment that showed one of the oxygen cylinders shipped with one of the apparatus had a bad gauge and one had two leaks.

Exton, Pa.-based Neutronics issued a statement Friday that the MSHA facts make it clear that the accident was not related to equipment failure but to human error.



Neutronics chief defends company in Nevada suit
ELKO, Nev. (AP)
October 31, 2003

The president of a company that makes breathing equipment defended the apparatus and said it played no part in the deaths of two miners in Elko.

Terry Halpern, president and chief executive officer of Neutronics Inc., told the Elko Daily Free Press that the lawsuit filed by the families of the two men took him by surprise and is without merit.

There is no question we will blow this lawsuit out of the water, Halpern told the newspaper in a story published Friday.

An investigation by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration determined that Dale Spring, 49, of Spring Creek and Theodore Milligan, 38, of Elko failed to insert required cooling packs into their breathing apparatus.

The suit, filed Oct. 17 in Elko District Court, seeks compensation for pain and suffering and punitive damages from Neutronics and subsidiary Biomarine Inc., both of Exton, Pa.

Spring and Milligan died after checking out Barrick Gold Exploration Inc.'s Storm underground decline on the Carlin Trend last year at Barrick's request.

They were part of an experienced team that was combining the assessment of Storm with a rescue drill.  According to the mine safety administration's report, the team advanced into the mine on Oct. 17, 2002, but Milligan and Spring ran into problems climbing back out after reporting temperatures reached 104 degrees.

Spring died at the scene.  Investigators attributed his death to multiple organ failure from environmental exposure.

Milligan was taken to a hospital in Salt Lake City, where he died six days later.  His death was blamed on a lack of oxygen to the brain from environmental exposure, according to the report.

Inspectors tested the breathing equipment used by the team and found that Spring and Milligan hadn't installed frozen gel packs needed to cool the air as they breathe.

They also hadn't shaved their goatees as required for a good seal, Halpern said.

Barrick was cited by the MSHA for failure to see that the men had installed their frozen packs and taken the necessary safety precautions.  Barrick also was blamed for not having adequate communication between the men inside Storm and the surface.

John Echeverria of Reno, an attorney for Cynthia Milligan and family, said earlier this month that the manufacturer should design the equipment so it doesn't work without the frozen packs so users are immediately aware they haven't installed them.

He also said he and the Spring family's lawyer, Thomas Brennan of Reno, have "some issues" with the MSHA findings.



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