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Willow’s Big Adventure, the death scene

Well here it is, the long awaited conclusion to Willow’s Big Adventure (except this obviously isn’t the conclusion as I’m still alive and life is still an adventure), so buckle up we’re a bumpy ride (who said that?)

Unfortunately we can’t escape a bit of house keeping and some boring background explanations. First the housekeeping: these are the links to the previous parts of the story Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 (I was tempted to really lay on the linky love and point to Stephanie’s post and let you find them from there ha! talk about linkage lunacy, actually I ended up using her post to get the links anyway, as it was quicker than searching for them myself – thanks Steph).

Secondly the background, unfortunately we can’t avoid a bit of technical crap so that you get a better picture of what happened…


The image on the left is a schematic of a headframe, the image on the right is a photo of real one very similar to the one we’re talking about, in fact this mine is close to where the story is set. If you’re interested the photo is from Kalgoorlie and the story is set in Agnew (Leinster if you google).
In the schematic you’ll notice two things, the big chimney which is part of the motor used to power the winder, and a rope that goes from the winder to the top of the headframe. 

35twicklungIn our story there is no fossil fuel motor but instead a 3,000 volt electric motor about this size. The building that houses the motor, the winder (the drum that holds the rope) and the winder operator is called the winder house (go figure), and because everything is so much bigger than in the schematic it’s further away from the frame, that’s why you can’t the winder house in the photo. Still with me? Good. The company I worked for had installed the motor, but as yet it hadn’t been commissioned (gone through rigorous safety testing). This is important.

Now, on the end of the wire rope is a fifty ton bucket that is lowered down a vertical shaft to collect the diggings from the decline shaft (this is where reading the previous posts would be helpful). Obviously in order to take the weight of the bucket when full, the rope needs to be fairly robust. To try and give you an idea, just imagine a normal rope about a half inch in diameter…it’s made up of a whole bunch of strands that are wound into bigger strands which are then wound together to form a rope, there are thousands of strands making up the rope. Now imagine a rope who’s smallest strand is solid steel about a 1/4" thick with about a thousand of these wound into a rope about ten inches in diameter and very strong.

So now to the point( finally). The construction of the shafts went 24hrs a day with three 8 hour shifts. Each shift had a crew of 5 miners working the face, and a heap more driving dump trucks and doing other mine type things. At the end of the shift, the crew working the face would get into the bucket and they would be brought to the surface. As I said before the winder motor and associated controls had not been commissioned which meant that the bucket was not certified to carry people. There should have been overspeed and underspeed cutouts as well as sensors on the rope to alert the winder driver to it being either tight or slack.

One morning just as were arriving at the winder house to work on the installation, there was a really bad noise, actually there were a lot of really bad noises. So now all you guys that have been patiently waiting for the gore, here it is. What happened was the electric brakes failed and the winder driver was unable to stop the motor, so when the bucket reached the surface instead of stopping to let the miners out, it just continued to the top of the headframe (about 160ft). When it got there, the motor just kept pulling on the rope until finally it snapped (you don’t argue with 3Kv motors).

In the space of about 20 seconds the following happened: the bucket fell to the ground bouncing of the metal frame like a pinball and depositing body parts wherever it hit, leaving arms, legs, heads and bodies strewn over a 100ft radius. At the same time, the wire rope snaked back like a huge rubber band and left an 18" wide gash in the roof of the winder house, it also amputated the winder driver’s arm at the shoulder. All up it was pretty gory.

But to make matters worse (for me), you might recall that I injured my leg on that site, and while I didn’t miss any work, I did have to go to see the nurse every day to have my bandages changed to prevent infection (you might also recall that the burn was so deep it severed my calf muscle). Later that day when I went to the infirmary to get my leg seen to, I discovered where they were keeping all the body parts.

There, now wasn’t that better than a goofy old contest? Thank you Robin, Karmyn and Stephanie for keeping at me to finish this. Mind you the adventure didn’t end here, I left the mine and flew to Bali, and then spent the next six months traveling through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand using only local transport (buses, trains and ferries). But you don’t want to hear about that.

16 Responses

  1. I come a mining town in Montana. I’ve read a lot of the history, seen a lot of the old photos. It was interesting to see something similar here… Building a head frame was a part of a final exam at the college .. although ours were made slightly different, simpler.

  2. 1) WORTH.THE.WAIT!!

    2) Ummmm, why were they keeping spare body parts? Ewwww!

    3) Me and Thomas miss being in a car accident by “8 seconds” and it messed with my mind…how could you go back into THAT????

    4) Who you calling “bumpy ride”?

    5) How the heck did someone who’s been reading you for five minutes get the first comment to THIS post???! Oh, the humanity!!

    6) I cannot wait to hear what song Stephanie comes up with for this (all I got is “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes…”), and what punny comment Pamela will construct…

    7) I am soooooo glad Ree wasn’t living in Agnew, Nikon in hand to capture a photo-documentary of this accident. Woulda made severed calf nuts look like child’s play.

    8) In the sentiment of one of Julie’s most memorable posts…”I’m glad it wasn’t your day to die…”

    (nod to Heather) L’Chaim!

    9) Good gracious, how many bloggers am I going to mention in this freakin’ comment? Hmmm, let me think of something for Karmyn, Claudia, Jenny, Stephanie, Marnie, Kathy, Melissa, Mark, James…;)

  3. Damn.

    Okay. Enough with the body parts. Tell us about the hookers.

  4. Well, one thing is for sure, it definitely has been an adventure! I am glad you were not one of the casualties in that particular accident.

    Snapped lines of any sort are no joke, one of the first things they showed us in boot camp was actual footage of ship accidents concerning these. I got to see second hand a line that nearly cut a man in half, and arm amputations.

    Body parts… not something most people get over easily. I can’t imagine how that was for you.

  5. Just think, if you’d been in the bucket you could have visited all those countries at the same time. OUch.

    I must say Peter, that I am thankful that you were not a part of that incident.

  6. wow…however, you totally skipped the part about your calf…in pt. 3 you mention that you’d tell us how it happened…and here you tell us that you had injured your leg on the site…did you injure your leg due to this accident? Or before? Just trying to put the puzzle together here…
    And I also agree with Pamela…

  7. Ouch. Wait, there are hookers?

  8. Wait, I read this last night and I’m too lazy to re-read it. There were hookers in the mine shaft and the Pioneer woman was the photographer? This is a good story. Like Pamela, I’m glad you were not part of the incident.

  9. I’ve got a song!!!

    (Of course!)

    And it’s LONG…but taking Robin’s example I see that this is the day for gi-normous comments.

    So, in the spirit of the story and of Australia’s heritage in general, please enjoy the lyrics to Paddy’s Lament:

    I write these words to you, To tell you of my plight. And at the time of writin’, I am not a pretty sight.
    For my body is all black and bruised,
    And my face a deadly grey.
    So I hope you’ll understand why Paddy’s not at work today…
    Well, I was workin’ on the castle tower,
    And some brick I had to clear.
    But throwin’ ’em down from such a height
    Was not a good idea.
    And my forman bein’ unpleasant
    (He bein’ an awful sod!),
    He said I’d have to take ’em down
    The ladder in me hod.
    Now carrying down these bricks by hand
    It was so awfully slow.
    So I hoisted up a barrel And secured the rope below. But in my haste to do the job,
    I was to blind to see
    That a barrel full of building bricks
    Is heavier than me!
    So, as I went down to cut the rope,
    Well the barrel fell like lead.
    And clingin’ tightly to the rope
    I started up instead.
    I shot up like a comet,
    And to my suprise I found That halfway up I met
    The bloody barrel comin’ down.
    Well, the barrel struck me across the shoulders
    As to the ground it sped.
    And when I reached the top,
    I hit the pulley with my head.
    I spun around all shock and dazed
    From the almighty blow,
    While the barrel spilled out half it’s bricks…
    Fourteen floors below.
    Now when these bricks had spilled out from
    The barrel onto the floor,
    I then out weighed the barrel,
    So I started down once more!
    Still clingin’ tightly to the rope,
    I headed for the ground
    And I fell upon the building brick
    That were all scattered ’round.
    Now when I reached the bottom there,
    I thought I’d pasted the worst.
    But the barrel hit the pulley,
    And it’s bloody bottom burst!
    A shower of bricks fell down on me,
    I hadn’t got a hope.
    And as I was loosing consciousness,
    I let go of the bloody rope!
    So, the barrel now being heavier,
    It started down once more,
    And it struck across me smartly
    As I lay there on the
    It broke three ribs and my left arm,
    So I can plainly say,
    “I hope you’ll understand
    Why Paddy’s not at work today.”

    Glad you recovered, WT.

    And THANKS for finally finishing the story!!!!

  10. “wow” is all I can say – to both your story and Stephanie’s poem.

    losing 5 guys that quick – seems pointless. I’m glad you went to Bali after that.

  11. Yep…Pamela was dead on and Stephanie sang the longest song in the history of ADGMB…

  12. The crazyness that must have happend afterwards… the sounds and the smells. I’m thankful you were safe.

    I want to hear about the rest please please please please.

    What are we doing about that contest with the picture and the dog? I think I’m ready.

    Pamela is the best one liner in the world isn’t she?

  13. Whoa! Wow! I was completely on the edge of my computer chair!

    Stephanie should get an award for the longest comment ever. And I cannot possibly beat that song. It definitely is the PERFECT song for the occasion.

    And, yes, I’m with Vicki – Pamela IS the best one liner in the world!

  14. I so can not compete with these commenters… maybe I shouldn’t try?

    glad your safe.

  15. Robin – I was at the nurses station about 4 hours after the accident. All the pictures had been taken of the scene and the body parts were stored there prior to being sent to the coroner in Perth.

  16. Damn, what a waste. Did all the men in the bucket die? Did any lose a limb but still live?

    Had to have been a very traumatic scene. Glad you weren’t there. Your injury might have saved you.

    Yes, I would love to hear all about Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, though I know it won’t all be pretty.

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