Operator Pleads Guilty in Crane Fatality

April 22, 2024
Anthony Valente pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in return for six months in jail.

The operator of a crane involved in the death of a co-worker has pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. Anthony Valente, a manager at R.J. Valente Gravel, was using the crane to install an engine in a Cat 773B rigid-frame haul truck in the company’s Grafton, New York, location. The overhaul hook ball detached and fell on Darren Miller, a 35-year-old mechanic, killing him.

According to news reports, the guilty plea was in return for a six-month jail sentence and five years of probation.

What happened at the Grafton mine

According to a report by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Valente activated the Load Moment Indicator system override on the Grove RT765E-2 rough terrain crane to bypass the safety system. During the lift, the overhaul hook ball was pulled into the sheave, which severed the hoist rope, an event called two-blocking.

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Miller was directly beneath the load when it fell.

According to MSHA investigations, the crane was rented to the mine in 2020, and when returned to the rental company was damaged when it rolled over. R.J. Valente Gravel purchased the machine and repaired it, but the crane was not certified or inspected by the manufacturer or a manufacturer’s representative for use after the rollover incident.

Manitowoc Crane Care sent a letter to the company stating that the damage to the crane meant it was not fit for service and that they would work with the crane’s owner to ensure that the crane could be properly repaired and inspected afterward.

MSHA determined that the crane was used at the mine soon after the mine operator made repairs.  Additionally, the auxiliary wire rope hoist line on the crane was damaged in May 2022 and was defective at the time of the accident. During the four previous regular inspections conducted by MSHA, from February 2021 through July 2022, the crane was documented as “tagged out of service” and the crane received only a visual inspection.

MSHA concluded that the fatality was the result of the mine operator not ensuring that Miller stayed clear of suspended loads while replacing the engine, and that it did not remove the crane from service to prevent operation in an unsafe manner.

About the Author

Rod Sutton

I have served as the editorial lead of Construction Equipment magazine and ConstructionEquipment.com since 2001. 

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