Obituary - Dave Fisher 1945 – 2011


Dave Fisher, 1945 – 2011
Dave Fisher, a field service superintendent with Robbins for most of his professional career, has died aged 65.

Dave enjoyed his photography

Fisher, who was well known in the industry for his expertise, worked on many projects across the world, including the Yellow River diversion tunnels in Shanxi Province, China and the Parramatta Rail Link in Sydney, Australia.
He had worked for Robbins since 1991, and had a special interest in recording jobsites with his camera. Many of his pictures featured in Robbins press releases and corporate publications over the years.
Lok Home, Robbins President, said: "Dave was one of those rare people you find in life. He was very experienced in field service; he was worldly and well read. He took the time to learn the history and culture of every area he worked in."
Home added: "When he was at a project you never got a phone call. He was just that good. He was the type of guy you wished you could send to every complex jobsite."
Mike Burngasser, a Robbins field service training specialist who worked with Dave on many projects, added: "In our time off we always took in the sights. Dave was really fond of taking photos of both jobsites and local cultures."
TunnelTalk knew Dave well. Editor Shani Wallis first met Dave in the early 2000s on the Wanjiazhai Yellow River water diversion project in China's far north-east Shanxi Province, close to the eastern end of the oldest section of the Great Wall and near the town of Tai Yuan.
The project of 89km of segmentally lined tunnelling was being built by Impregilo using four TBMs, two new and one used Robbins TBMs, and a new NFM-Boretec machine. Dave was the resident field technician for Robbins and had already been on-site for nearly two years when TunnelTalk made its visit.

Tunnelling into the loess steppes of north-east China

In an area where the notorious winds of the steppes lift the light loess dust to keep the air cloudy, TunnelTalk enjoyed crystal clear weather of deep blue skies during a visit of about two weeks at Impregilo's remote camp. Fisher was assigned to conduct the TunnelTalk visit to each of the four working sites and into the long headings of each TBM, some more than 10-15km into drives of up to 25km. These involved long drives through the countryside from one site to the next.
Fisher kept the time filled with stories about the land we were driving through, his experiences as he travelled with Robbins from job to job, and the information he had learned about the area he was living in. Around Tai Yuan, for example, are the largest open-cut coal mining operations in the world, and watching the trucks, overfilled with coal, trundling along the roads and toppling over on occasions, was topic of long conversations.
We were also held up on one drive by a vast contingent of the Chinese army on manoeuvres; wondered at the local Chinese homes built underground into the sides of deep gullies in the loess landscape (many with a satellite communication dish attached to the front even at that time); and marvelled at how the resourceful locals used the road traffic to thrash their grain and were engaged by authorities to take care of growing small sapling trees in the desert to try and halt the encroachment of the desert further south as the wind deposits more and more dust and smothers any chance of natural vegetation thriving.
Computer crashes along the way have wiped out the photos taken by TunnelTalk on the trip but Wallis met Dave again on further projects and most recently in December last year in Chongqing, China's largest city of some 25 million. Dave was Field Superintendant for two Robbins TBMs working on rapid expansion of the city’s metro system. Despite perhaps knowing he was unwell, Dave was his usual calm self. His soft calm demeanour breaking into infectious mirth at some funny event witnessed or remembered.
What comes to mind when thinking of Dave is the first line Kipling's poem – "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…." He was able to keep calm and stay focused in a time of strife. With everyone raising their voices and getting heated, Dave stayed silent, watching and listening to all, and calmly presenting his opinion and suggestions once he got to put a word in edgeways. This always defused the tension and allowed everyone to make a fresh start at problem solving. Memories of Dave are dear.
Fisher died in his native Washington State. Prior to working at Robbins he graduated with a degree in the Fluid Power Program at Spokane Community College, Washington, before taking on a role as an electronics technician in the Air National Guard.
  • Dave and Mike Burngasser (right) on a cultural tour

    Dave and Mike Burngasser (right) on a cultural tour

  • A special by Dave of the Senoko cable tunnel, Singapore

    A special by Dave of the Senoko cable tunnel, Singapore

Robbins consolidates presence in China - TunnelTalk, March 2011
Record setting TBMs on Yellow River drives - TunnelTalk, Jan 2001

Add your comment

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. You share in the wider tunnelling community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language professional.
In case of an error submitting Feedback, copy and send the text to
Name :

Date :

Email :

Phone No :

   Security Image Refresh
Enter the security code :
No spaces, case-sensitive