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District 6


Pinson Ridge No. 1 [I.D. 15-17150]
Holston Mining, Inc.
Stone, Pike County, Kentucky

May 11, 1995


Garey L. Farmer
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector/Accident Investigator

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Ratliff Creek Road, Pikeville, Kentucky 41501
Carl E. Boone, II - District Manager


The Pinson Ridge No. 1 Mine of Holston Mining, Inc., is located off Route 199, near Stone, Pike County, Kentucky. The principal company officers are: David W. Gay, President; Albert S. Gardfalo, Vice-President; Ronnie Slemp, Superintendent; and Thomas Asbury, Manager of Safety. The parent company is Pyxis Resources Co.

Coal is extracted from multiple seams utilizing the contour and mountaintop removal methods of mining. The major coal seams being mined are the Broas, average thickness 18 inches; the Richardson, average thickness 8 inches; and the Peach Orchard, average thickness 80 inches.

The mine employs a total of 59 persons who normally work four 12-hour shifts per week. The mine operates seven days a week and has a daily production of 2800 tons.

The overburden is drilled, blasted, loaded, and removed with a shovel, bulldozers, front-end loaders, and Caterpillar trucks.

The last complete health and safety inspection conducted by the Mine Safety and Health Administration was completed on March 3, 1995.


On May 11, 1995, at 7:00 p.m. (beginning of shift), Montie Marshall, second shift foreman, instructed Gabe Muncy, shovel operator; Jerry Francis, truck driver; and Farley Ward, truck driver to work in the area designated as "Area E" where overburden was to be loaded and transported to the disposal area. Activities progressed normally until approximately 9:10 p.m. At that time Francis was returning to "Area E" after having delivered a load of overburden. Francis contacted Ward by Citizens Band (CB) radio to give him the right-of-way. When Ward did not pass Francis' location within a reasonable amount of time, Francis became concerned and attempted to contact Ward on the CB radio. After receiving no response, Francis broadcasted on the CB radio that he was proceeding on to "Area E." While travelling along the roadway, Francis observed that the berm on the left side (west side) of the haulage road had been breached. Francis immediately contacted Marshall. Upon investigation, Marshall determined that the Caterpillar Model 777B truck which Ward was operating had over-travelled the haulage road and traveled down the mountain side. Ward was found lying on the ground 14 feet down-slope from the truck. When Ward was examined, no signs of life were detected. The Belfry Volunteer Fire Department was contacted for assistance in the recovery of the victim. The Pike County Coroner's office was summoned to the scene. The victim was transported upslope to the haulage road where Mike Hall, Deputy Coroner of Pike County, pronounced him dead at 11:50 p.m. The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals were notified of the occurrence. An investigation was begun immediately.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the accident.

  1. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.

  2. The haulage road averaged from 22 to 26 feet in width. At the point where the truck traveled over the embankment the roadway measured 26 feet in width.

  3. The roadway surface consisted of earthen material. The truck passed over an area of the roadway that contained soft and spongy areas a short distance from the accident site.

  4. The Caterpillar 777B truck is 16 feet in width.

  5. A berm constructed of earthen material was provided along both sides of the ridge-top haulage roadway. The berm ranged from 54 to 72 inches in height.

  6. The point where the truck travelled through the berm was the lowest elevation on that section of haulage road. The berm had previously been slightly breached to allow drainage of surface water.

  7. An examination of the berm along the west side of the roadway indicated that the Caterpillar 777B truck operated by the victim had travelled approximately 315 feet in contact with the lower inside edge of the berm. The right front tire appeared to travel through the berm at the point where the berm had been breached to allow for the drainage of excess water.

  8. After passing though the berm,the Caterpillar Model 777B truck being operated by the victim travelled 620 feet downslope (314 feet change in elevation) through heavily wooded terrain. Indentations in the ground and markings on trees and underbrush indicated that the truck overturned several times during the decent. The truck came to rest on its roof and bed.

  9. The victim was found lying 14 feet down slope from the truck.

  10. The weather was fair at the time of the accident. Approximately two inches of rain had fallen during the preceding two days.

  11. The Caterpillar 777B truck involved in the accident was extensively damaged as a result of the accident. The truck was believed to be mechanically safe to operate as evidenced by statements from the day-shift truck driver (affected truck) and the mine record books for equipment checks. An examination was made, to the extent possible, and no defects were found.

  12. A review of the company's training records indicated no deficiencies in the required training for the victim.

  13. The victim was regularly assigned duties as a bulldozer operator. He had volunteered to report to work on the date of the accident, one of his four scheduled days off. Statements indicated the victim had operated the truck involved in the accident on previous occasions.

  14. The accident occurred approximately two hours and fifteen minutes into the work-shift.

  15. The seat belt provided for the operator of the truck (victim) was observed intact and buckled during the investigation. There was no apparent damage to the seat belt or the anchoring components. The investigation team could not determine whether or not the victim was wearing the seat belt. Mike Hall, Deputy Coroner, stated that it is his opinion that the victim was wearing the seat belt. He stated the basis for this determination is the victim did not have any injuries to the lower extremities. He further stated the absence of injuries in this region is consistent with a person wearing a seat belt. The accident resulted in the victim being thrown from the truck.

  16. The Coroner's report indicated the victim died from massive trauma to the chest region. An autopsy was performed on the victim following the release of the body to the family. The results of the autopsy are consistent with the coroner's cause of death.


The following citations/order were issued during or as a result of the investigation:

  1. A 103(k) order of withdrawal, Number 4585083, dated May 11, 1995, was issued in conjunction with the investigation to insure the safety of all persons at the mine until an investigation was conducted.


The victim was en route from the "Area E" workings with a loaded Caterpillar Model 777B truck. The vehicle travelled in contact with the lower portion of the right berm (west side) for approximately 315 linear feet down a moderate incline. It then left the roadway, and continued down the mountainside 620 feet (vertical drop-314 feet), resulting in fatal injuries to the victim.

The consensus of the accident investigation team is that the right front tire of the Caterpillar 777B truck travelled into the breached area of the west side berm. The victim apparently realized that the truck was travelling over the embankment and would overturn. It is the investigation team's belief that upon his realizing this, the victim attempted to drive the truck straight down the mountain side. Consequently, the truck travelled downslope striking trees and overturning. During this sequence of events, the victim received traumatic injuries that resulted in his death.

Respectively submitted:

Garey L. Farmer
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector/Accident Investigator

Approved by:

Carl E. Boone, II
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95C14]