UPDATED: Winlock Man Dies in Accident at TransAlta Coal Mine Pond


An employee working on a project to recover coal from a pond at TransAlta’s Centralia mine site Saturday night was killed after a barge used in the dredging operation sunk, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office identified the man Monday morning as Caleb D. Brown, 28, of Winlock. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office and fire crews responded at 7:52 p.m. Saturday to the mine property at 1044 Big Hanaford Road in Centralia to a report of an industrial accident.

When deputies arrived, they learned an employee of a contractor was working on a 72-foot barge in a pond in an effort to dredge the pond to reclaim coal from the mud, according to the sheriff’s office.

A supervisor reported last having contact with the employee at 7:30 p.m. At 7:45 p.m., employees realized the dredging operation had stopped and the power to the barge was shut off. The barge was held in place by a cable and powered by a high-voltage line.

Employees then discovered the barge had sunk and was under about 20-feet of water. They were unable to locate the employee working on the barge.

On Sunday, Thurston County Dive Team members found the employee deceased inside the still-submerged cabin of the barge.

Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators have responded.

The barge, weighing about 150,000 pounds, will need to be recovered by a salvage crew before investigators can learn more, according to the sheriff’s office.