VIRGINIA, Minn. -- The driver that died when his truck struck a berm and overturned at the Minorca mine in Virginia was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, according to two investigations released this month.
Reports released Jan. 10 by the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Friday by the St. Louis County Mine Inspectors Office both say that despite Minorca's policy requiring all passengers and drivers to wear seat belts, Kenny Mattson, 51, was not wearing one when his service vehicle swerved into a berm and overturned Nov. 5. Mattson, a 15-year employee of the mine, was ejected from the truck and died.
Both reports also say Minorca retrained all employees on the seat belt policy and showed them how to inspect a seat belt for functionality.
Minorca, an iron ore mine and taconite processing facility, is owned by ArcelorMittal.
An ArcelorMittal spokesperson did not respond to the News Tribune's request for comment Friday asking what the seat belt retraining entailed and how the company instructed employees to inspect the seat belts for safety.
According to the county's report, the vehicle was traveling on a haul road when it "began to drift gradually to the right" before it hit the berm and overturned.
"It is unknown at this time what caused the vehicle to gradually drift to the right," the county said.
The reports said the truck, berms and road were all inspected and determined to be in good condition and not the cause of the crash.
The MSHA report noted that the seat belt's "retractor mechanism did not function properly."
"Investigators were unable to determine if this condition existed before the accident or if the accident damaged the seat belt detractor," MSHA wrote. "Since Mattson was ejected from the vehicle and the seat belt was found to be unfastened, investigators concluded that the victim was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident."
The crash was Minorca mine's first death since June 8, 2007, when Donavon Ray Dunblazier, 49, of rural Gilbert, was killed when the mobile crane he was operating tipped over. According to MSHA data, no other Iron Range mines have reported a death since then.
The vehicle crash is the second such incident at the Minorca mine this year. In April, a haul truck carrying iron ore overturned, spilling about 100 gallons of diesel fuel. The truck slid down an embankment as it prepared to unload ore into a stockpile. The driver was taken to a hospital out of precaution and later released.