DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
FATAL FALLING MATERIAL ACCIDENT
Black Bear Preparation Plant (ID No. 46-07985)
Mingo Logan Coal Company
High Voltage Construction Company, Inc. (ID K1F)
Wharncliffe, Mingo County, West Virginia
October 30, 1995
Curtiss Vance, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr., District Manager
On Monday, October 30, 1995, about 1:20 p.m., a falling material accident occurred during the clear cutting of a power line right- of-way, resulting in fatal injuries to Russell Chambers, Jr., age 45. Chambers was an independent contractor employed by High Voltage Construction Company, Inc. (ID K1F). The victim and three other employees were clearing timber and brush about 800 feet off the Mingo Logan Coal Company mine property. A tree, 8 inches in diameter, had been cut earlier in the day and had fallen into a larger tree, tangling the branches of both trees together. As the larger tree began to fall, the smaller tree was lifted up off the ground allowing it to swing down along the right side of the larger tree. The victim was knocked downhill into the path of the falling larger tree, crushing him between the tree and the ground.
The Black Bear Preparation Plant (ID 46-07985) is a surface facility which has a deep-mine coal stockpile area, silo storage, truck dump, and truck haulage roads. The preparation plant is operated by Mingo Logan Coal Company and is located 1 mile south off county Rt. 8/1 of the Left Fork Ben Creek. Independent contractor, M&H Trucking (ID D7T), provides haulage services for the removal of refuse materials from the plant. This facility processes coal from one surface mine and two underground mines. The coal is transported to the preparation plant by an overland belt conveyor and coal haulage trucks. Processed coal is shipped by belt conveyor to a loadout where railroad cars are loaded for shipment. The plant provides employment for 50 persons. Coal is produced on two 12-hour shifts, 5 or 6 days per week. This operation processes an average of 30,000 tons of coal per day of operation.
High Voltage Construction Company, Inc., provides electrical contractor services for installation of surface power lines and substations for the mining industry and industrial community other than mining and employs 9 persons. The principal officers of High Voltage Construction Company, Inc., are Allen Thompson, president; Jerry Wilkinson, vice president of operations; and Harry Smith, vice president of construction and health & safety.
High Voltage Construction Company, Inc., was hired by Mingo Logan Coal Company to relocate high voltage power lines for the future mining of Mingo Logan Coal Company property by an independent contractor (Premium Energy ID No. 46-07545). The High Voltage Construction Company, Inc., contracted the clear cutting of the power line right-of-way out to Russell Chambers, Jr., who hired the employees to clear cut the right-of-way.
Mingo Logan Coal Company is a subsidiary of Ashland Coal, Inc. The principal officers of Mingo Logan Coal Company are Markus John Ladd, director/president; James Thomas Dillery, director; Chester Russell Maberry, vice president; James M. Mullins, mine manager; and Bob Aliff, plant manager.
Principal officers of Ashland Coal, Inc., are William Creel Payne, president; Clarence Henry Besten, Jr., senior vice president; Marc Roger Solochek, senior vice president; Kenneth George Woodring, senior vice president; and Roy Franklin Layman, administrative vice president.
The last Mine Safety and Health Administration regular Safety and Health inspection was completed April 28, 1995.
STORY OF EVENT
On Monday, October 30, 1995, Russell Chambers, Jr., crew leader; Russell Chambers III (Rusty), his son; and Liekie Snodgrass, his nephew, of the High Voltage Construction Company, Inc., began work clearing trees at 8:00 a.m., and work progressed as normal without any unusual incidents. The crew was cutting timber for a power line right-of-way on the north side of county Rt. 8/1 Left Fork Ben Creek. The fourth member of the crew, Billy Hatfield, arrived at 9:00 a.m. with parts he had picked up that morning before coming to the job site. When Hatfield arrived, he took a chain for a chain saw to where the other three members of the crew were working and gave the chain to Rusty Chambers to install on his chain saw.
After installing the new chain, Rusty started cutting trees in the hollow on the right side of the right-of-way. Shortly after he began cutting, the new chain caused extensive damage to the drive sprocket. Russell told Rusty and Billy to go into Gilbert and purchase a new sprocket for the chain saw. However, they were unable to purchase a chain sprocket, so they borrowed a chain saw from another crew of the High Voltage Construction Company, Inc., working at another location in Mingo County.
Upon returning to the job site, Russell instructed Rusty to cut one of the larger trees still standing downhill from his location while Russell and Liekie were cutting trees at the top end of the right-of-way. Rusty notched the tree on the downhill side and began the fall cut on the left side of the tree. After cutting halfway into the tree, the weight of the tree set down on the chain and bar, fouling the chain saw. A smaller tree had been cut earlier in the day and had fallen downhill into the upper part of the larger tree that Rusty was cutting. Rusty and Billy made several attempts to push on the larger tree to free the fouled saw, but were unable to do so. Russell and Liekie came down to provide assistance and all four men began to push on both of the trees, but were unsuccessful in freeing the chain saw.
Russell then took a smaller chain saw and began to cut the tree on the right side to fall the larger tree. Witnesses at the scene stated that the smaller tree branches were entangled so tightly with the larger tree being cut that once the cut was finished and the larger tree began to fall, the smaller tree was pulled with the falling tree, lifting the small tree and allowing it to swing along the right side of the larger tree, striking the victim on the right side of his head. The victim was knocked downhill into the path of the falling larger tree, allowing the tree to land on the victim, fatally crushing him.
Liekie Snodgrass stated that he immediately went to the Mingo Logan Coal Company guard shack and called for emergency assistance. The Stafford Ambulance Service records show the call was made at 1:20 p.m., and the ambulance arrived at the accident site at 1:35 p.m. Mingo County coroner, Steven Cook, arrived at the accident site at 2:48 p.m. and pronounced the victim dead at the scene of the accident. The victim was taken by the Stafford Ambulance Service to the Chambers Funeral Home, in Matewan, West Virginia.
INVESTIGATION OF ACCIDENT
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was notified of the accident at 2:45 p.m. on October 30, 1995, by James M. Mullins, mine manager for the Mingo Logan Coal Company. MSHA personnel arrived at the accident scene at 3:25 p.m. MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted an investigation with the assistance of mine management personnel and employees of the independent contractor who witnessed the accident.
All parties were briefed by mine personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. A discussion was held with everyone available who had knowledge of the accident. Representatives of all parties traveled to the accident scene where a thorough examination was conducted. Photographs and relevant measurements were taken and sketches were made at the accident site.
Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the MSHA Logan field office conference room on November 9, 1995, at 12:30 p.m. The physical portion of the investigation was also completed on November 9, 1995.
Records indicated that hazard training had been given to all four of the independent contractor employees in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.
- The victim had worked at various times over the past 10-year
period for the High Voltage Construction Company, Inc.
- The victim had been clearing trees and brush for a 2-week
period from a designated right-of-way for the purpose of
installing new power lines along the boundary of the Mingo Logan
Coal Company property.
- The tree being cut at the time of the accident was 69 feet in
length and 18 inches in diameter.
- The smaller tree that was tangled or fouled into the larger
tree was cut earlier in the day prior to the accident.
- The base of the smaller tree was 8 inches in diameter and 48
- The base of the smaller tree measured 21 feet from the base of
the larger tree.
- The victim was apparently unaware that the smaller tree was so
tightly entangled that the larger tree would pull the smaller
tree alongside the larger tree as it fell downhill.
- Four tree cutters were used to clear the trees and brush in the right-of-way.
The accident and resultant injury occurred because appropriate steps were not taken to remove a small tree that had fallen into the larger tree prior to the larger tree being cut down. As the larger tree fell, the smaller tree was lifted in a pulling motion allowing the smaller tree to swing along the right side of the larger tree striking the victim and knocking him into the path of the larger falling tree and fatally crushing him between the tree and ground.
There were no violations of 30 CFR observed that contributed to this accident.
Respectfully submitted by:
Curtiss Vance, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Billy G. Foutch
Assistant District Manager
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
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