Rescuers have been unable to get inside the silo to search for the man because the 70- to 80-foot structure may be unstable. Hours after the collapse, rescuers continued to wait for equipment needed to stabilize the silo.
The missing miner has been on the job at Luck Stone Leesburg Quarry in Loudoun County for less than a year. He was unloading material from the silo into a truck early Monday when the silo “split,” plant managers said.
Emergency crews responded to the quarry in the 21200 block of Luck Lane in Ashburn around 6:30 a.m.
Crews tried to find the worker, using vacuum trucks to clear debris, but operations paused around 9 a.m. so the structure could be assessed for instability.
“Our hope [is] that we could find this gentleman in some type of void area, but at this time, we don’t even know if there [are] any void areas,” said Loudoun County Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief Keith Johnson.
Teams have been using listening devices, K-9s and cadaver dogs but have not detected anything.
“Everybody’s very concerned, yes,” said Lewis Murphy of Luck Stone. “We’re very close-knit; we work a lot of hours here together, and we’re a family away from home.”
The silo contained mineral filler, a fine, dust-like substance used in asphalt. A full silo of mineral filler weighs 150 tons, but plant managers say they’re not sure if it was full. The silo gets emptied every morning.
“We typically will empty it by truck, and this morning, the side of the silo split open, ruptured, and the material discharged out onto the ground,” Murphy said.
The miner was with two or three other workers at the time of the collapse. Those workers were able to give search teams some type of idea where he may be.
The missing man’s father is at the scene.
Multiple agencies are conducting the search, including Loudoun County Fire & Rescue and Fairfax Fire & Rescue. The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy will investigate with Virginia Occupational Safety and Health.
Plant managers and Loudoun County Fire & Rescue said they do not know what caused the silo to collapse. Federal investigators are looking into that.
Published by NBC Washington