Skip to content

District 1


The Harriman Coal Corporation (I.D. No. 36-06990)
Lincoln Strip Operation
Lincoln, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

March 14, 1995


Lawrence R. Gazdick, Sr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector


Leonard P. Sargent
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
Room 3128-D Penn Place, 20 North Pennsylvania Avenue
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701
Larry E. Brown, Acting District Manager


The Lincoln Strip operation, I.D. No. 36-06990, an anthracite surface mine operation, is operated by the Harriman Coal Corporation. The operation is located one half mile east of Lincoln, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

Employment is provided for twenty miners, and the mine has one producing pit which operates one shift per day, 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., six days per week.

This mine produces 180 tons of anthracite coal daily. The last complete MSHA Safety and Health inspection was conducted on December 5, 1994.


On Tuesday, March 14, 1995, Gary Knorr and Randy Reidler, equipment operators, arrived at the mine and started the pre-operational inspection of the haulage equipment at 6:45 a.m. At 7:00 a.m., the day shift crew started their shift. Knorr drove the Euclid R-50 haulage truck to the pit area of the mine. Knorr hauled three loads of rock from the pit area to the rock dump approximately 1200 feet north west of the pit. After completing the third trip, Knorr returned to his assigned mechanic duties. Joseph D. Coates was assigned duties to drive the haulage truck. This is normal operating procedures at this mine.

At approximately 8:10 a.m., Coates left the pit area with a load of rock. Coates traveled forward on the ascending roadway approximately 850 feet and for an undetermined reason the truck started down the roadway backwards. The truck traveled down the roadway approximately 250 feet and struck a berm. The truck turned over on the left side pinning Coates beneath the cab.

Kevin Rhode, truck driver, was parked at the bottom of the roadway waiting to be loaded with rock when he heard on a two way radio "this truck has no brakes." Rhode looked up the roadway and observed the truck traveling down the road backwards, strike a berm with the rear tires and then turn over on its left side. Rhode stated that he observed Coates standing in the doorway of the truck and he thought Coates was trying to jump from the truck. Randy Reidler, front end loader operator, was also at the bottom of the roadway and heard Coates yell on the two way radio. Reidler was not sure what Coates stated. Reidler looked up the haulroad and saw Coates standing in the doorway of the truck. Reidler also said he thought Coates was trying to jump from the truck. Dean Schroyer, an employee of EXPO-TECH, was approximately 300 feet down the elevated roadway. Schroyer said he heard the motor of the haulage truck running at a very high rpm, looked up the roadway and saw the truck travel down the hill backwards, the operator's door was open, the truck hit the berm and overturned. Rhode, Reidler, and Schroyer immediately traveled to the overturned truck. The engine was running at a very high rpm and antifreeze and water was dripping on the engine creating a cloud of steam. Quinn Lickman, Superintendent, arrived at the accident scene and directed Reidler to turn the engine off. Reidler turned the engine off with the manual shut off mounted on the engine.

Coates was found underneath the cab of the truck with one arm extending from the truck. Lickman and Reidler could not find a pulse in Coates's wrist. Rescue personnel were called to the scene. Coates was removed from underneath the truck. Coates was pronounced dead at 9:27 a.m., E.S.T. by Deputy Coroner Robert P. Berger of Tremont, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Coates was transported to the Pottsville Hospital and Warne Clinic in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

MSHA was notified of the accident at 8:30 a.m. An autopsy was performed and indicated death was caused by massive cervical and thoracic injuries.


  1. Weather conditions were clear and dry.

  2. On March 14, 1995 the Euclid R-50 CO#724E was operated by Gary Knorr, truck driver. Knorr made three loaded trips from the pit. He did not encounter any mechanical problems with the operation of the truck.

  3. Knorr conducted the pre-operational check of the truck. No hazards were noted.

  4. Coates had been task trained for the R-50 truck driver position on March 6, 1995.

  5. There were three eyewitnesses to the accident.

  6. The 1966 Euclid R-50, 50 ton capacity, Model 12LD43320, Company No. 724E, was equipped with an engine (retarder) brake, and air brakes. It is also equipped with an Allison automatic transmission.

  7. The accident occurred approximately 600 feet west of the pit area. The grade incurred along the surface haulage road is 16% to 17% at the accident site.

  8. Other operators stated that first and second gear was normally used while hauling out of the pit.

  9. When the truck was examined after the accident, the transmission was in first gear. The truck was loaded with spoil material when it overturned on the driver's side.

  10. Coates was heard saying on his portable radio, "this truck has no brakes."

  11. Examination of the seat belt indicated it was not being used at the time of the accident.

  12. The truck's drive train was intact.

  13. The truck sustained cab structural damage from the open cab door being crushed by the truck.

  14. Coates was on his seventh day of driving a truck.

  15. The truck engine was still running after the accident and was manually shut off by an employee.

  16. Physical and operational checks were conducted on March 22, 1995, in the presence of MSHA, L.B. Smith Inc., VME Americas Inc., and the Harriman Coal Corporation personnel. Physical evidence indicated that the truck was the same as the day of the accident. Test results were as follows:

    1. The left rear brake was covered with oil which was not a result of the accident.

    2. The brakes were straight air brakes and the approximate brake chamber strokes were noted to be about 2 inches for both rear brakes, 1 inch for the left front brake and 3/4 inch for the right front brake. The supply hose to the right front brake chamber was leaking when pressurized and the right front brake chamber was also leaking. This leak was a significant amount.

    3. The hand brake valve lever on the steering column had been forced over center. The valve in the normal "on" position would engage the rear brakes, but would release its pressure in the forced over center position. This valve damage most likely was the result of the operator forcing the valve during the accident.

    4. When the air system was pressurized, the supply line from the air compressor was found to be leaking and the check valve in that line was not functioning properly. This line leak most likely was the result of the accident due to the engine movement.

    5. With the air system externally charged to 129 psi on the cab air pressure gauge and with no air compressor, four full brake applications were made in about 15 seconds and the pressure was reduced to about 80 psi. With 2 additional applications and holding the pedal in the applied position, the remaining air pressure rapidly decayed through the right front brake chamber and air line.

    6. An attempt was made to check the brake capacity against the engine stall condition in various gears. Upon the initial tries, it appeared that the transmission may not be functioning properly. The screen was pulled and found to be clean. A stall check was made on the engine. The engine idle speed was about 575 rpm, the no load speed was about 2200 rpm and the stall against 6th gear was about 1400 rpm. The manufactures stall speed should have been 1800 50 rpm. This test indicates that the engine was not producing the proper horse power. No further test were preformed due to the low engine horse power, therefore, the condition of the transmission and the brake capacity were not determined.

    7. Other general comments were the transmission reverse lock on the shift column was bypassed. The original model was not equipped with a transmission reverse lock. The throttle linkage was in the full open position due to the movement of the cab from the accident.

  17. The operator voluntarily retired five similar trucks.


On March 14, 1995, the Euclid haulage truck was ascending the elevated roadway with a load of rock and for an undetermined reason the truck started backwards down the roadway. Based upon the investigation and the physical evidence present at the accident scene, the brakes failed to stop the loaded truck on the 17% grade. The victim was observed trying to jump clear of the truck when the rear truck tires struck a berm and turned over on him resulting in fatal injuries. The seat belt was not being used at the time of the accident.


A 103(k) Order, Number 4149646, was issued to assure the safety of persons at the mine until an investigation was completed at the accident scene.

A 104(a) Citation, Number 4149647, CFR 30, Section 77.404(a) was issued for failure to maintain the Euclid R-50 haulage truck (Company No. 724E) in safe operating condition.

Respectfully submitted by:

Lawrence R. Gazdick, Sr. and Leonard P. Sargent
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspectors

Approved by:

Larry E. Brown
Acting District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95C05]