A Clinton County man and long-time employee at a local rock quarry was killed last Wednesday after he became covered in rocks inside a large hopper at the quarry.
The incident that resulted in the death of Lonnie Ferrell, was the center of a rescue effort at the quarry that lasted for well over an hour and had at one time over 50 people working frantically to remove Ferrell from the hopper.
According to witnesses at the quarry, Ferrell, 56, was operating a loader in a location on the north-east side of the Gaddie Shamrock quarry, placing rock into the large hopper when apparently the hopper became clogged.
The hopper, located near the new Albany By-pass in the area where the new bypass runs behind the Twin Lakes Family Wellness Center, feeds a large conveyor belt that moves the rock from the hopper to another part of the quarry operation.
Ferrell apparently left the cab of the large loader he was operating while feeding rock into the hopper to investigate a possible clog in the structure, and when the rocks inside the hopper began to move, he became trapped in the rock and was eventually completely covered.
One of the first to arrive on the scene was long-time office employee at the plant, Bill Asberry.
“I didn’t know exactly what to do, so I called Stanley Stockton because I knew he had a boom and welder on his truck, and he knew what we should do,” Asberry said Wednesday afternoon during the early stages of the rescue efforts.
Stockton immediately went to work on the metal hopper structure, using his torch to cut several large holes in the base of the structure that allowed others to begin shoveling rock away from inside the structure.
In the meantime, other employees began arriving on the scene, as well as a host of truck operators who haul rock from the quarry to area construction sites.
Within minutes, emergency workers from a host of local agencies were also on hand, including the Albany Fire Department and Clinton County Disaster and Emergency Services, Albany Police Department and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department.
A helicopter from the local Air Evac base also landed on-site, and the crew members also began working with the others helping to remove gravel and rock from the hopper.
As word of the rescue efforts spread throughout the community, several other citizens began arriving on the scene offering assistance.
The incident occurred just before 1:00 p.m. last Wednesday.
It was estimated that at any time, the hopper could contain between 100 and 200 tons of rock.
After having worked inside the close quarters at the base of the hopper, using a cutting torch to cut holes in the structure, Stockton became overheated and was given an examination in one of the awaiting ambulances on the scene, just a few yards from where the rescue efforts were continuing.
Stockton was treated for heat exhaustion and observed for several minutes by a member of the Clinton County EMS crew on hand.
The frantic pace of the rescue effort continued for about an hour, until about 2:00 p.m. when the workers were able to reach Ferrell and then determined that he had died inside the hopper.
The discovery of Ferrell’s body changed the mood immediately to a somber one, as emergency crew members and volunteers began to realize that their efforts had not been able to save Ferrell from perishing inside the large hopper.
A complete death notice for Lonnie Ferrell appears this week on page X