Vulcan Materials responds to calls for additional quarry safety measures after death of UofSC student

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – The University of South Carolina community is reacting to the death of UofSC senior Michael Keen.

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

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It is the second career student death in just over a year.

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“It should be a revelation for sure,” said UofSC junior Katie Buttarazzi. “Something has to happen. It shouldn’t have happened once, let alone twice. Career needs to be better secured, that’s for sure.

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

She said that although she doesn’t know him personally, Keen’s death hits close to home because she and her friends usually walk alongside the quarry to Gamecock football games.

“On match days we’ll walk from here to the stadium and to local restaurants like J’s Corner,” she said. “And when kids drink, even slightly drunk, it’s a recipe for disaster if the career isn’t secure. There’s just plenty of room there for something bad to happen.

Another worried student he and his friends will not walk along 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 of their employees, especially those at Columbia, that they expressed their condolences to Keen’s family and friends.

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

The statement goes on to address the security precautions taken to keep people out of the quarry perimeter.

“We make every effort to operate this site safely. We use fences, warning signs, berms and barbed wire to keep people out and warn them of dangers. In some areas we have two rows of fences with barbed wire. The buffer zones around the site are naturally forested and allowed to thicken to further discourage trespassing.

Some UofSC students think this is not enough.

“I know there’s a fence around him, but I really think he needs to have more protection, especially after it happened twice,” UofSC junior Lauryn Waters said. “It’s kind of scary to know it happened and apparently people are still able to get in there so they have to find a harder way for people to get in there.”

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

Acting UofSC 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 of you may wish to ask for help during this difficult time. Please take advantage of the resources we have in place if you need bereavement support or counselling.

Pastides went on to detail the ways in which 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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Susan W. Lloyd