DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
(Underground Coal Mine)
FATAL FALL OF RIB ACCIDENT
Loveridge No. 22 (I.D. No. 46-01433)
Consolidation Coal Company
Fairmont, Marion County, West Virginia
February 7, 1996
Kenneth W. Tenney
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
5012 Mountaineer Mall, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505
Timothy J. Thompson, District Manager
At approximately 9 a.m., on February 7, 1996, a rib composed of rock and coal fell in the No. 6 entry in the Main West Belt Grade at the Consolidation Coal Company's Loveridge No. 22 mine. The total distance of fallen material measured 25 feet long by 3-1/2 feet high by 3-1/2 feet thick. The accident occurred as Glen E. Mathess, Loading Machine Operator, and William Turner, Mechanic, were servicing a Joy 14BU10 loading machine. The rock brow and coal rib fell without warning striking and fatally injuring Mathess and seriously injuring Turner. The accident occurred because an overhanging rock brow and coal rib were not properly evaluated and removed or supported.
The Consolidation Coal Company, Loveridge No. 22 mine, I.D. No. 46-01433, is located one-fourth mile west of Route 17 near Fairview, West Virginia. The mine is opened by one slope and six shafts into the Pittsburgh coalbed and has an average mining height of 84 inches. Employment is provided for 458 persons; 394 underground and 64 on the surface. Coal is produced on three production shifts each day, five days per week. One retreating longwall and four continuous-mining machines, on separate development sections, produce an average of 14,500 tons of raw coal per day.
The principal mine officials are:
Wes McDonald.......................Executive Vice President
Robert E. Omear.....................Superintendent
Curtis Helms............................Mine Foreman
Donald Glover.........................Safety Director
The nine entries, with connecting crosscuts in the Main West belt grade, where the accident occurred, were originally developed in 1971. These entries were developed with a Joy Twin borer continuous-mining machine, which cut 13 feet 6 inches wide and about 6 feet 6 inches high. The No. 6 entry is being rehabilitated in order to install a continuous belt haulage system. Prior to the accident, about 20,000 feet of the No. 6 entry had been rehabilitated. In September 1994, mine officials had established clean-up and support procedures for the rehabilitation work in the Main West area. A Joy 12CM11 full- face continuous-mining machine, with mounted roof bolters, was removing a portion of the existing supported roof and attempting to maintain a height of 100 inches. If 100 inches could not be maintained by cutting the roof, a portion of the mine floor was removed. The roof material removed in the accident area varied in depth from 16 inches to 32 inches or until the rider coal seam was exposed. Two tensioned point anchor resin bolts, in conjunction with metal straps, were installed in the roof on 4-foot centers.
The last regular safety and health inspection at this mine was completed on December 29, 1995.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On Wednesday, February 7, 1996, at 8 a.m., the day shift crew, including Glen E. Mathess, Loading Machine Operator, and William Turner, Mechanic, for the Main West belt grade, entered the mine. The crew, supervised by Thomas Russ, Grade Job Foreman, proceeded to the belt grade location at No. 87 Block of Main West arriving at about 8:20 a.m. The crew members spoke briefly with the midnight shift crew members as they were leaving the area. Two members of the midnight shift crew (Greg Staley, Shuttle Car Operator, and Kenny Neer, Continuous-Mining Machine Operator) told members (Jack Shields, Shuttle Car Operator and Robert Powell, Roof-Bolter Operator) of the day shift crew that, "the left rib is loose and you should watch it." (NOTE: This is not the rib that fell) Midnight Shift Foreman, Tom Snodgrass, also informed Russ that the left rib had rolled out twice during the midnight shift.
During a brief safety talk, Russ cautioned the crew members to watch the ribs. Russ then proceeded to walk in the No. 6 entry, examining the roof and ribs to the No. 86 crosscut, where the continuous-mining machine was located. Russ observed no unusual conditions or hazards and placed the date, time, and his initials on a date board in the No. 86 crosscut. The crew members then proceeded to their work sites. Russ then proceeded to walk from the No. 86 crosscut back through the same area to the power center located at No. 90 block. He did not observe any unusual conditions or hazards at this time. Russ met Don Wheeler, Continuous-Mining Machine Operator, and told him to advance the mining machine and continue cutting the roof down. Russ returned to the area of the No. 87 block near the loading machine and instructed William Turner, Mechanic, and Glen E. Mathess, Loading Machine Operator, to grease the left track take-up jack of the loading machine.
Meanwhile, Jack Shields, Shuttle Car Operator, approached the standard shuttle car and discovered it was loaded with loose material. Shields dumped the load on the belt and traveled to the loading machine located midway between No. 87 and No. 86 crosscuts. He determined that the shuttle car was almost out of trailing cable, and it would be necessary to reposition the anchor. Mathess, at the controls of the loading machine, loaded the shuttle car with refuse, at which time Shields trammed the shuttle car back to the tailpiece. After dumping the load, Shields and Russ repositioned the shuttle car trailing cable anchor.
Don Watress, Certified Foreman, arrived at the Main West belt grade site between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. and conversed with Russ. Watress walked from No. 90 block to the No. 86 crosscut and returned, examining the roof and ribs as he traveled through the area. He did not observe any hazardous roof or rib conditions. As Watress walked on the right side of the entry between No. 86 and 87 intersections, he observed Turner and Mathess on the left side of the loading machine. The loading machine was parked near the intersection of the No. 87 crosscut. Watress had a brief conversation with Russ and left the area.
Russ then positioned himself between the left rib and the loading machine, near Mathess and Turner, while they were servicing the left track take-up jack. Russ examined and sound tested the rib behind Mathess and Turner and did not find any hazards. At about 9 a.m., Wheeler, who was positioned at the front of the loading machine, called to Russ. Russ walked around the back of the loading machine boom to the right side of the entry where Wheeler was waiting. When Russ had advanced four or five steps passed the front of the loader, he and Wheeler heard the rib fall.
Also, at this time, Shields was tramming his shuttle car back to the loading machine. Shields observed two miners positioned between the left rib and loading machine. When he was within 75 to 80 feet of the loading machine, Shields saw the rib fall on the two men.
Russ, Wheeler, and Shields immediately proceeded to the accident site and to assist the miners. Mathess was lying on the mine floor, trapped with a portion of the rib that was reportedly 7 feet long, 3-1/2 feet wide, and 3-1/2 feet thick. Turner was lying along side the loading machine and was also trapped by the fallen rib material. The three men tried but could not remove the fallen material off Mathess. They did manage to uncover Turner. First aid was rendered, and Turner was prepared for transportation to the surface, as work continued to free Mathess.
Shortly afterwards, other miners arrived and assisted in the rescue operations. When Mathess was recovered, he was still breathing and first-aid was rendered. Mathess and Turner were transported to the surface of the mine, arriving at about 10 a.m. However, before reaching the surface, Danny Kuhn, Safety Supervisor, and also an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), arrived near the portal bottom and examined Mathess. Kuhn determined that Mathess was not breathing and started conducting Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on Mathess until they reached the surface. Mathess was then treated by the Monongalia County rescue squad. The rescue squad continued efforts to revive Mathess until the paramedics, from the Health Net Air Medivac Unit, Ruby Memorial Hospital, Morgantown, West Virginia, arrived. The Medivac paramedics, under the direction and during telephone communication with Dr. Mike Hartzog, continued efforts to revive Mathess.
Mathess was transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Ruby Lindsay, Medical Examiner.
Turner, upon arriving on the surface, was treated and transported by Life Flight air transport to the Monongalia General Hospital, Morgantown, West Virginia, where he was admitted.
PHYSICAL FACTORS INVOLVED
- The accident occurred in the No. 6 entry, between the No. 87
and No. 86 crosscuts of Main West, approximately 37 feet
inby spad station No. 87 block. The mine entry height in
this area is 10 feet 2 inches. The mine entry width is 16
feet 6 inches. The mine roof is supported with 5-foot
combination roof bolts and metal straps on 4-foot centers.
- The No. 6 entry was originally developed in 1971, using a
Joy Twin borer continuous-mining machine, which cut the mine
entry about 13 feet 6 inches wide and about 6 feet 6 inches
- The originally installed roof support (6' conventional-type
tension roof bolts) and mine roof were being cut down, using
a Joy 12CM11 continuous-mining machine (full face ripper),
with mounted bolters, which cut the mine entry 15 feet 6
inches wide. The mine roof was cut down to expose the 6-
inch to 8-inch thick rider coal seam. There is about 12
inches of shale rock present between the Pittsburgh and the
rider coal seams.
- The rock brow and coal rib that fell had broken into ten
separate pieces (refer to sketch). Shields stated that the
entire rock brow and coal rib fell at the same time.
Measurements at the accident scene determined that the
material that fell was about 25 feet in length.
- Tom Russ, Day Shift Foreman, stated that he had examined the
ribs at the accident site three times during the shift, with
the last examination only minutes before the fall. He
related that the rib appeared to be safe.
- Don Watress, Certified Foreman, stated that he had traveled
through the area, about 20 minutes before the accident,
examining the roof and ribs. He observed no hazards.
- Don Wheeler, Continuous-Mining Machine Operator, and Jack
Shields, Shuttle Car Operator, both stated that they had
observed the brow and thought it was safe.
- The Joy 14BU10 loading machine was parked 6 feet from the
left rib, just inby the corner at the intersection of No. 87
crosscut, on the Main West belt grade. Turner and Mathess
were reportedly working with their backs to the left rib.
Turner (injured miner) stated that he and Glen E. Mathess
(victim) had looked at the rib and had moved the loading
machine back to that location because they felt the rib was
safe. Reportedly, they did not position the loading machine
in the intersection at No. 87 crosscut because the mine
floor was covered with 3 to 4 inches of mud and water.
- Two members of the day shift crew, Jack Shields, Shuttle Car
Operator, and Robert Powell, Roof-Bolter Operator, were
informed, when they arrived at the grade, by two miners of
the departing midnight shift crew, Greg Staley, Shuttle Car
Operator, and Kenny Neer, Continuous-Mining Operator, that
the left rib was loose. However, during the investigation
and a visit to the accident site, Neer explained that the
area that he and Staley had notified the oncoming crew
members about was not in the area of the accident but was in
an area approximately 35 feet inby the accident site. Neer
also stated that at the end of his shift, he had observed
the rib in the area of the accident and did not believe it
- The Main West belt grade crew members, including Foreman
Russ and Foreman Snodgrass, related that they were not aware
of any written clean-up and support procedures for the Main
West belt grade.
- A written clean-up and support procedures was established by
the operator in September 1994, for the Main West belt grade
area and was posted on a bulletin board at the Miracle Run
mine office. The written clean-up and support procedures
read in part as follows:
- "Strap spacing will be 4' maximum when draw slate is
exposed and 4 1/2' maximum with head coal."
- "Clean and strap with the miner advance no more than
50' then back up to grade bottom." (During the
investigation, miners interviewed related that the
distance had been changed verbally from 50 feet to 100
- "With draw slate out take 1' rock above false bottom."
- "With draw slate still in take 1' of bottom below false
- "Clean X-cuts enough to bolt inby rib line and set 4'
- "Every 4th center bolt will be a 10' bolt, if adverse
conditions put all 10' bolts."
- "SCREEN OF THE RIBS" "The first row of straps will be
5' bolts in the arch. The second row of screen and
straps will tie into the bottom of the first row of
screen. On this second row of straps where the straps
tie together use a 5' bolt in the middle hole of the
strap use a 3' bolt."
- "When drilling the ribs for the 3' bolts, you may find that the rib is not solid enough. Then extend the hole to 5'."
- "Strap spacing will be 4' maximum when draw slate is exposed and 4 1/2' maximum with head coal."
- The approved roof-control plan dated June 6, 1995, requires
that the mine roof, where the Joy 12CM11 continuous-mining
machine is being used, be supported with a minimum of
60-inch roof bolts installed on not more than 5-foot centers
of advance and a maximum spacing of 8 feet 11 inches
crosswise in the entry. A center bolt is required to be
installed within 72 hours.
- The Joy 12CM11 continuous-mining machine was cutting top and
bottom and was located 65 feet inby the front of the loading
- The midnight shift certified foreman had been assigned to
and had worked on the Main West belt grade for three days.
The day shift certified foreman, Tom Russ, had been assigned
to and worked on the Main West belt grade for three weeks.
- Since August 1995, miners have been assigned to work at the Main West belt grade three shifts a day, five days per week.
The accident and resulting fatality and injury occurred because an overhanging rock brow and coal rib were not properly evaluated and taken down or supported. A contributing factor was that all persons assigned to perform the rehabilitation work were not instructed in the operator's written clean-up and support procedures.
A 104(a) Citation No. 4180727 was issued, citing 30 CFR 75.202(a), because an overhanging rock brow and coal rib in the No. 87 Block of the Main West belt grade were not supported or otherwise controlled where persons were required to work.
A 104(a) Citation No. 3493543 was issued, citing 30 CFR 75.212(a)(1), because the written clean-up and support procedures established by the operator in September 1994, for the Main West rehabilitation area, were not being followed. Testimony taken during the accident investigation revealed that some crew members engaged in the rehabilitation work were not aware of, or instructed in the operators written clean-up and support procedures.
Respectfully submitted by:
Kenneth W. Tenney
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Robert L. Crumrine
Assistant District Manager
for Inspection Programs
Timothy J. Thompson
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