DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
(UNDERGROUND COAL MINE)
FATAL ROOF FALL ACCIDENT
BIG BRANCH MINE
I.D. NO. 46-05978
EASTERN MINGO COAL COMPANY
NAUGATUCK, MINGO COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA
DECEMBER 7, 1995
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr., District Manager
The Big Branch Mine, Eastern Mingo Coal Company, is located at Naugatuck, Mingo County, West Virginia. The mine is developed from the surface by 17 drifts: Spruce Creek portal - 5 drifts, Marrowbone Creek portal - 6 drifts, and the Big Branch portal - 6 drifts. The mine is in the Coalburg seam that averages 72 inches in height.
The mine began production in June 1982. Employment is provided for 317 employees on two production shifts and one maintenance shift with the following employees for each of the portals: Marrowbone Creek portal - 162 employees, Spruce Creek portal - 70 employees, and the Big Branch portal - 85 employees. The mine produces an average of 20,910 tons of coal daily from eight continuous-mining-machine sections. Coal is transported from the section to the surface via belt conveyors. The immediate roof consists of shale and the main roof of sandstone rider coalbed and is primarily supported with 30-inch conventional bolts. The roof bolts are installed on 4-foot lengthwise and 4-foot to 5-foot crosswise spacing with 6- by 6-inch bearing plates. At the Spruce Creek portal, one of the three portals for the mine, ventilation is induced by two 6-foot blowing fans that produce approximately 395,000 cubic feet of air per minute. During the last AAA inspection, 591 cubic feet of methane was liberated per 24-hour period. The existing roof-control plan was approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on July 11 and 13, 1994.
The last MSHA safety and health inspection (AAA) was completed on July 26, 1995, with an ongoing AAA being conducted at the time of the accident.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT
Larry Blackburn and James Runyon, section foremen on the 3rd Southwest Mains section, prepared themselves and their crew for departure to the underground working sections on track battery man trips. The 3rd Southwest Mains section is a supersection with nine total entries. James Runyon, who is foreman on the left side, and Larry Blackburn, who is foreman on the right side, entered the mine at approximately 0800 hours. Upon arriving on the section, the foremen traveled to their respective sides to conduct an examination of the working section. Prior to the employees going underground, this section was preshifted by Jim Bumgarner, preshift examiner, and called his report out to Charles Mullins, mine foreman, who entered Bumgarner's findings in the appropriate book.
Blackburn, upon completion of the face examinations, met with the continuous-miner operator and both roof-bolter operators who had entered the mine at approximately 0500 hours to perform other work prior to the beginning of their regular shift. Blackburn instructed the continuous-mining-machine crew to start mining the No. 8 entry crosscut right. Prior to mining, the crew replaced bits in the ripper head and worked on water sprays until about 0825 hours. The crew began normal mining activities in the No. 8 entry crosscut right with a Joy 14CM15 remote-controlled continuous miner. While mining the crosscut, some draw slate rock roof fell on top of the continuous-mining machine without incident. About 0930 hours, upon completion of mining the No. 8 right crosscut, Blackburn instructed the continuous-mining-machine crew to mine the No. 6 entry face. Mining was started on the right side of the No. 6 face. In the process of advancing the right side of the face about 20 feet, three of the four roof bolts in the last row of permanent roof supports were accidentally cut off. The continuous-mining machine was repositioned to the left side and advanced the face 22 feet. The continuous-mining machine was then repositioned to the right side to finish the mining cycle of 40 feet. Keith Curry, continuous-mining-machine helper, was outby the continuous-mining machine at the third row of bolts with the victim, James L. Preece. At approximately 10:14 a.m., when Preece began loading a shuttle car, Curry left the face area and proceeded down the entry outby and had traveled about half the length of the shuttle car when he heard a thump. Upon turning to see what had happened, Curry observed that the victim was underneath a piece of mine roof. Curry informed Ron Daughtery, shuttle-car operator that Preece was underneath a piece of rock. Curry and Daughtery attempted but could not remove the rock from Preece. Daughtery then went to get help from other miners on the section. After attempts to remove the rock with slate bars and lifting jacks proved to be ineffective, a decision was made to remove the shuttle car from the entry. A scoop was brought in and used to lift the rock off Preece so that he could be removed. Preece was positioned approximately 12 inches inby the last roof bolt installed in the bolt pattern, which had three bolts cut out. Two EMTs, James Marcum and Luther Workman, were present and checked for vital signs and none were found. Preece was then placed on a stretcher and CPR was administered. He was then transported to the man-trip vehicle where the EMTs continued to administer CPR. Upon arriving on the surface, Preece was placed in the care of the Mingo County Ambulance Service and transported to the Williamson Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
INVESTIGATION OF ACCIDENT
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was notified at 11:00 a.m. on December 7, 1995, that a fatal roof fall accident had occurred. MSHA personnel arrived at the mine at 12:00 p.m. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners.
MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management personnel, the miners, and representatives of the miners. A list of those who were present and/or participated in the investigation is included in Appendix A .
All parties were briefed by mine management personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. A discussion was held with two miners who were working within close proximity of the victim.
On December 7 and 8, 1995, representatives from all parties conducted the on-site portion of the investigation. Photographs, relevant measurements, and sketches were made of the accident site.
Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the Marrowbone Development Corp. office at Naugatuck, West Virginia, on December 11, 1995.
The physical portion of the investigation was completed December 12, 1995, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.
Records indicate that training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.
An examination of Mr. Preece's training records revealed that he had received all required training.
The approved roof control plan allows the following roof bolts to be used: conventional bolt system, full grout bolt, tension grout bolt, and combination bolt system.
The mine roof in the face area where the accident occurred, as well as other areas on the section, were being supported with 30-inch conventional roof bolts.
The roof bolts were being installed on 4- to 5-foot crosswise and 4-foot lengthwise spacing as required by the approved roof control plan.
Entries and crosscuts were developed to a width of 20 feet in accordance with the approved roof control plan. No second mining was performed in the area where the accident occurred that would affect the roof integrity.
Three of the roof bolts installed in the last row of permanent supports were cut off during mining. The victim was positioned 12 inches inby the bolt installed on the left side of the face area when the rock fell.
The victim was not operating the remote-controlled Joy 14CM15 continuous-mining machine in accordance with the approved roof control plan when the accident occurred.
The approved roof control plan stipulates on Page 13, Paragraph 3, that the continuous-miner operator shall maintain three rows of bolts between himself and the unsupported roof.
According to persons interviewed during the accident investigation, the victim normally followed the approved roof control plan, except on occasion between loading shuttle cars, he would proceed inby the last three rows of bolts to check on cleanup. During the interviews, it was also stated that other continuous-miner operators went inby the third row of bolts during mining operations. Also, during the investigation, no evidence of discipline for going inby the third row of bolts was discovered or presented. These practices will be evaluated during normal inspection activities.
There were other entries on the 3rd Southwest Mains working section which contained pieces of draw rock that had fallen from the mine roof during the mining of coal. Employees stated that they felt this was a safe way to mine the coal on the 40-foot deep cut, enabling the draw rock to fall while the continuous-mining machine was being used. The draw rock could then be loaded out with no one else being exposed to adverse roof conditions.
The 3rd Southwest Mains section (033-0 MMU) utilized a Joy 14CM15 continuous-mining machine that was equipped with a remote-control system. Depths of cut were limited to 40 feet beyond the last row of permanent roof supports.
The No. 6 heading had been advanced 20 feet on the right side of the face with the three roof bolts cut out of the last row of permanent roof support during the advancement. The continuous-mining machine was repositioned to the left side and had mined 22 feet, and then repositioned to the right side. The victim was positioned 12 inches inby the last roof bolt installed in the bolt pattern, which had three bolts cut out, when a piece of rock broke off 9 inches inby that roof bolt, causing fatal injuries to the continuous-miner operator.
The helper of the continuous-mining machine stated that just prior to the rock falling, the victim was outby the continuous-mining-machine boom, and he (helper) proceeded to walk outby past the shuttle car being loaded when he heard a thump, turned around, and observed the victim underneath the piece of fallen rock.
The immediate roof consisted of shale ranging from 0 to 25 feet in thickness and was overlaid by sandstone rider coalbed strata of undetermined thickness. The mine did not have a history of roof falls but had recently encountered adverse roof conditions. These adverse conditions were the draw rock brought down during mining with the continuous-mining machine. The operator was taking the shale in the immediate roof as a corrective measure to make the place safer. No other geology, like faults, was associated with this condition. Rock fell on the miner during these times of taking the immediate roof. The investigation did not indicate any visibility problems at the time.
Test holes were being drilled at 40-foot intervals in accordance with the approved roof control plan.
The fall at the accident site measured 5 feet wide, 7 feet in length, and 12 to 14 inches in thickness. The fall occurred about 9 inches inby the last bolt installed and extended on an angle toward the face.
The shale rock that fell from the immediate mine roof was unconsolidated but apparently fell in mass when the accident occurred, and upon striking the continuous-mining machine, broke into different segments.
The fatal accident occurred because the victim was positioned 12 inches inby permanent support. The victim did not follow the requirements of the approved roof control plan which stated, staying three full rows of roof bolts outby the face.
A 104(a) Citation No. 4623963 was issued, stating in part that the operator did not maintain three rows of bolts between himself and the unsupported area in the No. 6 entry face of the 3rd Southwest Mains section (033-0 MMU), a violation of Section 75.220(a)(1), 30 CFR.
A 104(a) Citation No. 4623964 was issued, stating in part that a miner was working inby roof supports in the No. 6 entry face of the 3rd Southwest Mains section (033-0 MMU), a violation of Section 75.202(b), 30 CFR.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
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