October 22, 2018 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: When Falling Is Your Fortune

This October 17, 2018 photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office shows a rescue team lowering themselves into an old abandoned mine shaft to rescue a man who fell into the shaft on Monday, October 15, 2018, near Aguila, Arizona. A hospital spokesman said the man who fell into the shaft is now in good condition and awaiting surgery for two broken legs. Sheriff’s officials say the man who fell into the shaft on Monday was found two days later by the neighbor who came to check on him and heard his calls for help. (from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

What happened
John Waddell frequently went to his 100-acre property in the Sonoran Desert to look for a few pieces of gold to sell. Monday morning, October 15, 2018, John Waddell told his friend, Terry Shrader,  that he was going to his property outside the town of Aguila, Arizona, to search for gold in a mine shaft. In the remote desert area, Waddell was rappelling the abandoned 100-foot mine shaft when his carabiner broke, sending him falling 40 to 50 feet to the mine’s bottom with no cell service, two broken legs and rope-burned hands, in the company of several Western Diamondback rattlesnakes.

Shrader remembered Waddell telling him on Monday that if he didn’t hear from him by Tuesday to come looking for him. Shrader didn’t feel well on Tuesday. Wednesday, he drove to the mine and immediately heard Waddell calling for help. He drove to get cell service and called 911. Returning to Waddell, he lowered water and Coke into the mine. Rescue workers arrived and worked with ropes for more than five hours to bring Waddell out of the mine. You can see the dramatic rescue in the video below.

The sign outside the abandoned gold mine, warning of liabilities.

Lessons Learned
We learned this past week, amid news of Waddell’s dramatic, near-catastrophic fall in the 100-foot mine, that the amateur prospector had never before mined alone in the vertical shafts. Rather, his prior gold-mining efforts were conducted in the horizontal shafts.

The 62-year-old Waddell apparently killed three Western Diamondback rattlers while lying at the bottom of the mine. Shrader told NBC News, “He’s a tough guy.”

Waddell, pictured below, was airlifted to Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix with non-life-threatening injuries after being without food or water for two days at the bottom of the mine. He underwent surgery on Thursday, October 18.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez tweeted, “We are looking forward to his recovery. Great outcome today with all MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office] and law enforcement partners.”

Terry Shrader summed up his future expectations of his friend’s mining proclivities, “I don’t think he’ll be going down into one of those vertical shafts again.”

You can learn more here about why it’s crucial to avoid the myriad dangers that can be lurking in old abandoned mines. Among them are cave-ins or collapses; “bad air,” denoting poisonous gases or insufficient oxygen; old explosives; deep water; and many more.

Circumstances can crop up anywhere at any time if proper and safe sequence and procedures are not planned and followed. We encourage you to learn and use the TapRooT® System to find and fix problems. Attend one of our courses. We offer a basic 2-Day Course and an advanced 5-Day Course. You may also contact us about having a course at your site, or call us: 865.539.2139. 


Accident, Current Events, Equipment Reliability / Equifactor®, Human Performance, Root Cause Analysis, Safety
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