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I.D. NO. 46-04678

DECEMBER 23, 1995


William H. Uhl, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, WV 25880
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr., District Manager


The D-Max Energy, Inc., Mine No. 2, is located at Hanover, Wyoming County, West Virginia. The mine is developed from the surface by four drift entries into the Gilbert coal seam. The average mining height is 52 inches. The mine began producing coal on August 15, 1975.

Employment is provided for 32 persons on two production and one maintenance shifts. The mine produces an average of 800 clean tons of coal daily from one continuous-mining section. Coal is transported to the surface by belt conveyors.

The immediate and main roof is shale and is primarily supported with 30-inch conventional bolts and 48-inch fully grouted resin rods.

Mine ventilation is provided by a 5-foot exhausting fan which produces about 51,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The mine has no history of methane liberation.

The principal officers of D-Max Energy, Inc., are Deanna Morgan, president; Glenn Morgan, vice president, consultant and chief of engineering services; and Aubrey Hartman, superintendent.

The last regular Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspection was completed August 14, 1995. A regular inspection was ongoing at the time of the accident.


On Saturday, December 23, 1995, the 003-0 section crew entered the mine at 6:45 a.m., under the supervision of Aubrey Hartman, superintendent. The crew arrived on the section about 7:00 a.m., and Hartman made an examination of the working faces prior to instructing the crew to commence mining in the No. 2 entry left crosscut.

Hartman stated that about 11:30 a.m., he relieved Carl Hopson, victim and continuous-mining-machine operator, for lunch. Hartman had not noticed any problems with the machine, and Hopson had not complained to him about any concerns or mechanical defects.

Normal mining operations continued in the No. 1 and No. 2 entries until approximately 2:00 p.m. At this time, mining was completed in the No. 2 entry, a place change was made, and operations resumed at the face of No. 1 entry. According to Rex Backus, off-standard shuttle-car operator, and Curtis White, standard shuttle-car operator, this was the second cut for the day shift in the No. 1 entry.

Backus said that on his first trip from the No. 1 entry to the section dumping point, the belt conveyor stopped at 2:20 p.m. The belts restarted about 2:40 p.m. Backus and White stated that Hopson had not mentioned having any problems with the continuous-mining machine until about 2:45 p.m.

White stated that as he was leaving the continuous-mining machine, Hopson said he was going to tighten a fitting on a boom lift jack that was leaking hydraulic oil. White said that he observed Hopson walking around the conveyor boom of the continuous-mining machine as he was leaving for the section dumping point. After returning, White parked his shuttle car in the last open crosscut near the continuous-mining machine and walked over to the operator's deck to observe Hopson as he tightened the fitting.

Backus, also returning to the continuous-mining machine, traveled up the No. 1 entry and parked his shuttle car within several feet of the boom of the machine. Backus then proceeded to walk up to the left side of the machine and had kneeled down at the feet of Hopson when the accident occurred. Backus said that an oil spray came from beneath the boom in the area where Hopson was working and the boom of the continuous-mining machine instantly came down to within 3 or 4 inches of the mine floor. Backus and White were both struck by the oil spray.

Backus tried to free Hopson by pulling on his legs but was unable to move him. Backus then notified Hartman and other crew members that Hopson was caught beneath the miner boom and that the scoop was needed to lift the boom off him.

Dave Black, section electrician, who was working on a scoop in the No. 3 entry, brought the scoop to the continuous-mining machine. Hartman directed Black to place the scoop blade under the boom of the continuous-mining machine and lift it to allow Hopson to be freed.

Tracey Adkins and Paul Basham, roof-bolting-machine operators, and Hartman pulled Hopson from beneath the boom and checked for vital signs. None could be found. Hopson was then secured to a stretcher and transported to the surface utilizing the section man trip. The Stanford Emergency Ambulance service transported Hopson to the Coroner's Office in Pineville, West Virginia, and later on to the Charleston Area Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.


MSHA was notified at 6:00 p.m. on December 23, 1995, that a fatal machinery accident had occurred. MSHA personnel arrived at the mine at 8:45 p.m. A 103(k) Order was issued to assure safety of the miners until the accident investigation could be completed.

MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted an investigation with the assistance of mine management and the miners.

All parties were briefed by mine management personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. Representatives from all parties traveled to the accident scene where a preliminary examination was conducted. Photographs, videos, and relevant measurements were taken and sketches were made at the accident site. On December 26, 1995, representatives of all parties returned to the accident scene to conduct further tests and examinations on the continuous-mining machine.

Interviews of individuals known to have knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the MSHA Pineville Field Office on December 28, 1995.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed on December 28, 1995, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.



Records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with Part 48, Title 30 CFR.


The continuous-mining machine (serial number JM 3593) was placed into service at this mine on December 18, 1995, and no record of examination was available at the mine.

Physical Factors

The accident occurred on a holiday weekend, December 23, 1995, at 2:50 p.m. Normal quitting time for the day shift was 3:00 p.m.

The 003-0 day-shift production crew was in the process of mining on a new section setup.

The continuous-mining machine and shuttle cars normally used on the 003-0 section were recently inundated by water and were not retrieved. (Not reported to MSHA)

The continuous-mining machine involved in the accident was obtained, immediately following the loss of the 003-0 section equipment, from the No. 1 mine also owned by D-Max Energy, Inc. The machine was brought to the No. 2 mine on the evening of December 17, 1995, and placed into service on December 18, 1995.

According to the mine records and statements of employees, the continuous-mining machine (serial number JM 3593) was not examined prior to being placed into service.

The machine was placed into service with the panic bar switch removed, deadman switch taped in, and the trailing cable to the miner had exposed wires and damaged outer jacket.

The load-locking check valves had been removed from the boom lift elevator jacks system.

An improper fitting was used to connect the hydraulic hose to the left side boom lift jack, and the threads within the jack cylinder housing and the threads on the hose fitting were partially destroyed.

Two eyewitnesses were present when the accident occurred.

The boom of the continuous-mining machine was not blocked against motion prior to the victim working beneath the elevated conveyor boom.

Witnesses interviewed stated that Hopson had 20 years total mining experience and had spent most of that time as a continuous-mining machine operator.


It was the consensus of the investigation team that the accident occurred because:

  1. the boom of the continuous-mining machine was not blocked against motion before work was performed beneath the boom;

  2. the machine was not maintained in a safe operating condition, in that load-locking check valves had been removed from the boom lift elevator jack, and an improper fitting had been used to connect the hydraulic hose to the left side elevator boom lift jack; and,

  3. an examination was not performed on the machine prior to it being placed into service.


A 104(a) Citation No. 2737741 was issued, stating in part that repairs were performed under a raised portion of the continuous-mining machine and that portion of the machine was not blocked against motion, a violation of Section 75.1725(c), Title 30 CFR. As a result, a fatal accident occurred.

A 104(d) (1) Order No. 2737742 was issued, stating in part that the continuous-mining machine was not being maintained in a safe operating condition in that load-locking check valves had been removed from the boom lift elevator jacks hydraulic system, and the hydraulic fitting used to connect the hose to the left-side boom lift jack was an improper fitting, a violation of Section 75.1725(a), Title 30 CFR.

A 104(d)(1) Order No. 3972094 was issued, stating in part that the continuous-mining machine was placed into service on December 18, 1995, and no record of examination was available at the mine, a violation of Section 75.512, Title 30 CFR.

Respectfully submitted,

William H. Uhl, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Billy G. Foutch
Assistant District Manager


Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB95C47