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Smith Underground No. 1 (I.D. No. 15-16020)
Costain Coal, Inc.
Providence, Webster County, Kentucky

August 23, 1995


Jeffery G. Denny
Mining Engineer

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 YMCA Drive, Madisonville, Kentucky 42431-9019
Rexford Music, District Manager

General Information

Costain Coal, Inc., operates Smith Underground No. 1 mine, which is located on Highway 670, approximately .1 mile north of Providence in Webster County, Kentucky. Smith Underground No. 1 mine began production on October 6, 1994. The mine is accessed by four drift openings into the Kentucky No. 13 coal bed. The average mining height is 98 inches. This one section mine utilizes two continuous mining machines to extract 4000 tons of sub-bituminous coal daily, operating two 10-hour production and one maintenance shift each 24 hour period. Coal haulage is provided by three Joy 10SC shuttle cars which transport coal from the continuous mining machines to the mainline conveyor belt. Battery-powered scoop tractors and diesel-powered haulage units are used at the mine for transportation of men and materials. All haulage is rubber tired.

The principal officers of Costain Coal, Inc., Smith Underground No. 1 mine are as follows:

T. H. Parker................................President
William M. Potter........................Vice President
Dennis W. Bryant........................Mine Manager
Robert Hackney..........................Mine Foreman
William C. Adelman.....................Director of Loss Prevention

The last regular safety and health inspection (AAA) of this mine was completed on June 26, 1995. A regular inspection was ongoing at the time of the accident.

Description of Accident

On Wednesday, August 23, 1995, the second shift production crew, under the supervision of Tommy Adams, reported for work and travelled underground at 4:15 p.m. Mining operations began shortly afterward and progressed without incident. Shortly after 10:00 p.m., the left side continuous mining machine, which was set up in the left hand crosscut in the No. 8 entry, ruptured a hydraulic hose and was being repaired by the section mechanic. The right side continuous mining machine began loading coal from the face of the No. 3 entry. William Louis Wright (victim), who was operating the No. 1 Joy 10SC shuttle car, was returning to the feeder with a load of coal. After turning outby in the No. 5 entry his car lost electrical power and stopped. Wright left the operator's compartment and went to the cable reel to determine the cause of the problem, which placed him between a check curtain and the boom end of the shuttle car.

Billy Capps, scoop operator, had finished pushing coal into the face of the No. 2 entry and was en route to the No. 4 entry to continue cleaning the face areas. Capps waited for shuttle cars No. 2 and 3 to travel to the feeder before going across to the No. 5 entry to avoid the shuttle cars trailing cables. As he approached the No. 5 entry he flashed his lights twice and backed through the check curtain, pinning Wright against the shuttle car.

Foreman Adams, who had returned to the face of the No. 8 entry after calling out the results of his preshift examination to the oncoming foreman, heard shouting and went to investigate. At approximately the same time, Jeff Rogers, left side roof bolter operator, and Mike Silar, No. 3 Shuttle car operator, also responded to the commotion.

When they arrived, they found that Wright was severely injured and called for Tom Witherspoon, EMT, who was operating the No. 2 shuttle car. Witherspoon arrived and began assessing the injury, while Jeff Rogers brought the stretcher and a diesel-powered pick-up truck to the accident site. Witherspoon applied a trauma dressing to the wound, which was a laceration above the right groin area. Witherspoon noted that Wright was laboring to breath, and detected a pulse. Adams used the section telephone to notify Mark Short, third shift mine foreman, of the accident. Short, who was on the surface preparing to travel underground with the third shift crew, sent Alan Lovvorn, EMT, into the mine to assist Witherspoon. Adams also instructed Don Vickery, warehouse employee, to alert Providence Ambulance Service and Welborn Hospital's Lifeflight team.

Meanwhile, the diesel-powered pick-up truck arrived, and Wright was loaded onto the truck. Lovvorn arrived and upon assessing the injury, could not detect a pulse. Witherspoon and Lovvorn began CPR and attempted to control bleeding while en route to the surface. The Providence Ambulance Service met the truck on the mine's access ramp and began assisting mine personnel. Wright was transported to the helicopter pad while Witherspoon, Lovvorn, and the Providence Ambulance personnel continued emergency treatment. The helicopter arrived at 11:12 p.m., and the lifeflight crew took over treatment. After 56 minutes, rescue operations ceased and the victim was pronounced dead. The Webster County coroner was present, and fixed the time of death at 12:08 a.m. Scoop operator Capps was transported to Regional Medical Center in Madisonville, Kentucky, where he was treated for shock.


MSHA District Manager Rexford Music was notified of the accident by Howard Meadows, loss prevention advisor, at approximately 11:30 p.m. The investigation team arrived at the mine at 2:00 a.m. and began a joint investigation with the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. Employees of Costain Coal, Inc., and Smith Underground No. 1 mine assisted during the investigation.

The accident scene was examined, measurements and photographs were taken, and relevant equipment was tested and examined. Interviews of persons who had knowledge of the accident were conducted by MSHA and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals at the Smith Coal Training facility on August 25.


Records indicated that required training had been conducted in accordance with the requirements of 30 CFR, Part 48.

Physical Factors Involved

The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence of the accident:

  1. The Joy 10SC shuttle car involved in the accident, serial No. ET 10894, operated on 300 volts of direct current power.

  2. The trailing cable of the Joy 10SC shuttle car, serial No. ET 10894, had two permanent splices which were not effectively insulated or sealed to exclude moisture.

  3. The Eimco battery powered scoop tractor operated by Capps, serial No. 2033, was maintained as approved, and included a bell type warning device.

  4. Accepted work practices at Smith Underground No. 1 include installing transparent curtain in haulage entries.

  5. The ventilation check curtain hung across the No. 5 entry was a translucent, Ripstop Ventatex 8440, MSHA 7B33/13, overlapping a transparent, Ripstop Ventatex 8440, MSHA 7B-033041-1, curtain.

  6. The transparent curtains normally allow objects to be seen through the curtains. The translucent curtains allow some light to be transmitted through the curtain, but do not normally allow objects to be seen through the curtain.

  7. The victim was wearing ear plugs at the time of the accident.

  8. Evidence at the accident site indicated that the shuttle car lost electrical power as a result of the positive and negative conductors contacting each other in one of the permanent splices.

  9. The loss of electrical power caused the head lights on the shuttle car to go out.


The accident sequence began when the shuttle car stopped at the check curtain as a result of the short-circuit in the trailing cable. The accident potential was increased when the shuttle car operator stood at the shuttle car with his back to the translucent check curtain. The accident occurred when the battery-powered scoop was trammed through the check curtain without sounding an audible alarm.

Contributing factors were:

  1. The victim was not aware of the approaching scoop, and the scoop operator did not see the shuttle car, because the check curtain was not sufficiently transparent to allow the scoop's headlights to shine through.

  2. The shuttle car operator was wearing ear plugs.

Enforcement Actions

  1. 103(k) Order No. 4066408 was issued to Costain Coal Inc., to ensure the safety of all persons in the affected area.

  2. 104(a) Citation No. 4576646 was issued to Costain Coal, Inc., because the shuttle car cable contained two splices that were not effectively sealed or insulated to exclude moisture, a violation of 30 CFR, Part/Section 75.604.

  3. 314(b) Safeguard No. 4066410 was issued to Costain Coal, Inc., requiring that an audible warning be given by the operator of self propelled haulage equipment where persons may be endangered by the movement of the equipment. This criteria is specified in 30 CFR, Part/Section 75.1403-10(f).

Respectfully submitted:

Jeffery G. Denny
Mining Engineer

Approved by:

Rexford Music
District Manager
District 10

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95C26]