(8 May 2008, California) 24-year-old Mike, an operator for a gravel
company, did not intend to perform a death-defying stunt with a 40-ton
construction machine. He was only trying to free a bulldozer stuck atop a
50-foot high pile of dirt that it had been pushing. Despite several better
options, Mike decided to pull the stuck machine backwards with an old
front-end Caterpillar loader.
Driving up a dirt ramp at a 40-degree angle is nerve-racking enough without
doing so knowing that your vehicle's brakes are inoperable and in need of
repair. The operator in question knew that when he decided to use the
machine to free the 'dozer, something he should not have been doing with
any loader under any circumstance. To compound the risk, Mike decided to
improve traction by loading the Caterpillar's bucket with dirt to give it
At the top of the hill, Mike did as he was trained: he took his foot off
the throttle and hit the button to engage the parking brake-forgetting
that, on CAT loaders, setting the parking brake automatically puts the
transmission in neutral. He unfastened his seatbelt and began to exit the
loader, which was imperceptibly rolling backwards.
When Mike noticed, he jumped back into the cab and hit the brake pedal,
but... nothing happened. The loader continued downhill.
Beyond the edge of the property was a steep drop down to the next
property. A five-foot dirt berm protected the edge so trucks would not
accidentally drive off the cliff. At 25 mph, this berm did little to slow
40 tons of rolling steel and dirt, but it did give the loader a good
launching height. In a stunt that would make Evel Knievel sweat, the
machine careened up the berm and launched into the air, clearing the cliff
and landing on the adjacent property 35 feet below and 50 feet away.
Mike was thrown through the rear windshield and onto the engine
compartment. Miraculously, the loader landed on all four tires, and Mike
was able to walk away with just a few cuts and bruises. Looking back at the
incident, Mike laughs and says he proved that a CAT always lands on all
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Reference: Pending OSHA Report