Vulcan Materials responds to calls for additional safety precautions at quarry following UofSC student death

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Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 8:18 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -The University of South Carolina community is reacting following the death of UofSC senior Michael Keen.

Keen’s body was found in the Vulcan Materials Company Columbia Quarry on Monday, and the Richland County Coroner confirmed his identity on Tuesday.

RELATED STORY | Body found near Vulcan Materials quarry identified as missing UofSC student

This is the second student death at the quarry in just over a year.

RELATED STORY | Coroner releases cause of death for UofSC student reported missing, then found dead

“This should be an eye-opener for sure,” UofSC junior Katie Buttarazzi said. “Something has to happen. It shouldn’t have happened once, let alone twice. The quarry needs to be better secured for sure.”

Buttarazzi lives in the Olympia-Granby area near Rosewood Drive, not far from Keen’s Florida Street home.

She said although she did not know him personally, Keen’s death hits close to home because she and her friends typically walk parallel to the quarry to go to Gamecock football games.

“On game days we’ll be walking around from here to the stadium and to local restaurants like J’s Corner,” she said. “And when kids are drinking, even being slightly intoxicated, that’s a recipe for disaster if the quarry is not secured. There’s just a lot of room there for something bad to happen.”

Another concerned student he and his friends will not be walking alongside the quarry at any time, day or night, following this event.

Vulcan Materials owns and operates the quarry.

In a statement, they said on behalf of all their employees, particularly those in Columbia, they express their condolences to Keen’s family and friends.

“This is indeed a tragedy that is all the more so at this time of year,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to address the safety precautions taken to keep people outside the perimeter of the quarry.

“We make every effort to operate this site in a safe manner.  We utilize fencing, warning signs, berms and barbed wire to keep people out and warn them of the dangers.  In some areas, we have two rows of fencing with barbed wire. The buffer areas around the site are naturally wooded and allowed to grow thick to further discourage trespassing.”

Some UofSC students believe this is not enough.

“I know there’s a fence around it, but I definitely think it needs to have more protection, especially after having it happen twice,” UofSC junior Lauryn Waters said. “It’s kind of scary knowing that’s happened and apparently people still are able to get into it, so they need to figure out a way that’s harder for people to get into.”

WIS asked Jimmy Fleming, Vulcan Materials Vice President of Permitting & External Affairs, about the potential for additional safety measures to secure the perimeter. Fleming said it’s too early to say what actions may be taken as the investigation into Keen’s death is ongoing, but safety is an issue that will be addressed.

UofSC Interim President Harris Pastides reacted to Keen’s death today, saying in a statement, “It is always painful to lose a member of our Carolina family, and we know that some of you may wish to seek support during this difficult time. Please take advantage of the resources we have in place if you need grief support or counseling.”

Pastides went on to detail ways students and faculty access mental health services. Students can call the 24-hour helpline, and staff can call the Employee Assistance Program.

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