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District 4

Underground Coal Mine


No. 35 Mine (ID No. 46-07854)
Kenjean, Inc.
Keystone, McDowell County, West Virginia

February 15, 1996


Jerry E. Sumpter
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 Thursday, February 15, 1996, a fatal haulage accident occurred at the Kenjean, Inc., No. 35 mine, in the No. 3 entry section intake airway off the MMU 001-0 working section.

The victim, Ronald Belcher, was backing a 480 S&S scoop (battery- end in direction of travel) through crosscut No. 3 to No. 2 entry at survey station No. 325, delivering stopping blocks to the section to construct permanent stoppings. Belcher turned close to the corner while operating the scoop. His head was outside the confines of the operator's deck while he was operating the machine and was caught between the headlight located in front of the operator's deck and the solid coal rib.

The victim had a total of 23 years mining experience and was an experienced scoop operator. Belcher had worked at this mine about 2� months. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident. Based upon physical evidence observed and statements provided during the investigation, it is the consensus of the accident investigation team that the accident and resultant fatality most likely occurred because the victim was not aware of being within close proximity of the solid coal rib with the machine. Also, the victim failed to safely maneuver in the open entry and had driven over an Omega block.

General Information

Kenjean, Inc., No. 35 mine, is located at Keystone, McDowell County, West Virginia. The mine entered active status on June 24, 1994. The mine is developed into the Pocahontas No. 11 coalbed from the surface by five drift openings. The Pocahontas No. 11 coalbed averages 36 inches in height. Employment is provided for 16 persons on two production shifts. The mine produces an average of 500 tons of clean coal daily from one continuous-mining section. Coal is transported from the working section to the surface via belt conveyor.

The immediate roof is comprised of shale and sandstone and is primarily supported with 36-inch resin bolts. Supplemental supports are crib blocks and timbers. Ventilation is induced into the mine by a 6-foot blowing fan, which produces about 85,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The mine does not liberate methane.

Kenjean, Inc., is a subsidiary of Bluestone Coal Corp. The principal officers of Kenjean, Inc., are Kenneth Walls, II, president; Jeannette V. Walls, vice-president and secretary/treasurer; Burge Speilman, safety consultant; and Troy Hill, section foreman. The principal officials for Bluestone Coal Corp. are Dale Wright, superintendent, and Donnie Coleman, safety consultant.

A regular (AAA) inspection by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was ongoing at the time of the accident.


On February 15, 1996, the day-shift production crew entered the mine at approximately 7:00 a.m. under the direction of Troy Hill, section foreman. Upon arriving on the 2 Left working section, Hill assigned job duties to the crew members.

Normal production activities started with Zaccheaus Keene, continuous-miner operator, moving the continuous miner into No. 7 entry working face to start loading coal, with Howard Workman operating the standard shuttle car and Ronald Belcher (victim) operating the off-standard shuttle car.

After taking a cut of coal from the No. 7 working face, Keene moved the continuous miner to the No. 6 working face to start mining while Randy Johnson and Norman Parks moved the roof bolter into the No. 7 working face to start roof bolting.

This sequence of mining continued in the No. 5, No. 6, and No. 4 entry working faces with the continuous miner being in No. 4 and the roof-bolting machine in No. 5 face when the conveyor belt on the feeder broke down at approximately 11:00 a.m. Kenneth C. Walls, II, had brought MSHA Inspector Bob Shrewsbury into the mine to inspect the 2 Left working section. Joe Hudson, section electrician, worked on the conveyor belt feeder until 12:05 p.m., at which time he determined that the electric motor had malfunctioned and would have to be replaced. Hudson notified Walls and Hill of his findings. According to Hill, he instructed Johnson and Parks to stop roof bolting in the No. 5 face, move the bolter outby in the No. 5 entry, and install a ventilation board so that fly pads could be installed.

At 12:15 p.m., Hill instructed Keene and Workman to plaster ventilation stoppings on the right return side of the 2 Left section while Belcher took the 480 battery-powered scoop down the intake to pick up and deliver stopping blocks to the intake side of the section.

After installing the ventilation board in the No. 5 entry, Johnson and Parks notified Hill that they had finished. At this time, Hill told them to go to the intake side of the section and build the two stoppings with blocks that Belcher had delivered. When Johnson and Parks arrived at the No. 3 entry intersection, at survey station 325 in the intake, they observed Belcher in the operator's deck of the 480 battery-powered scoop. According to statements made by Johnson and Parks, the scoop was not running, and they observed Belcher's head caught between the coal rib and light housing toward the front of the operator's deck. After calling to Belcher and receiving no response, Johnson went to the mine phone to call outside for an ambulance while Parks checked Belcher.

Hudson, who was still working at the conveyor belt feeder, heard Johnson's call outside for help and asked him what was wrong. Johnson told him that Belcher was seriously injured and needed help. Johnson and Hudson then called to Hill, who was installing fly pads on the ventilation board in the No. 5 entry, and also called to Walls and Shrewsbury, who were near the working face of the No. 6 entry, telling them that Belcher was seriously injured. They then returned to the scene of the accident to assist Parks with Belcher. Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, Walls checked for vital signs and found none.

Hudson started the scoop and repositioned it so that he, Johnson, Parks, Walls, Hill, and Shrewsbury could remove Belcher from the operator's deck of the scoop. After removing Belcher, Walls began CPR while first-aid materials were brought to the scene. By this time, the other crew members arrived at the accident scene. Shrewsbury relieved Walls in administering CPR prior to placing Belcher on the stretcher and transporting him to the surface.

Widener's Ambulance Service was waiting on the surface and transported Belcher to Welch Emergency Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Topol.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 1:20 p.m. on February 15, 1996, that a serious accident had occurred. Robert Shrewsbury, MSHA inspector, was at the mine conducting an inspection when the accident occurred. A 103(k) Order was issued by Shrewsbury to ensure the safety of the miners.

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

All parties were briefed by mine personnel as to the circumstances surrounding 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 scene. Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, Welch, West Virginia, on February 17, 1996, at 10 a.m.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed on February 20, 1996, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.


Records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48. An examination of Belcher's training records revealed that he had received all required training.


Records maintained by the operator indicated that weekly electrical examinations were being conducted on all of the section equipment. The Preshift-Onshift and Daily Report books indicate that examinations were being properly conducted as required by 30 CFR.

Physical Factors

  1. The width of the roadway at the accident scene measured approximately 22 feet. The roadway was timbered to a width of 19 feet in the accident area.

  2. The height from the mine floor to the mine roof measured 35 1/2 inches.

  3. The 480 S & S scoop, involved in the accident, was not equipped with a canopy.

  4. The operator's deck on the scoop was located at the center of the machine on the right side.

  5. Measurements taken at the rear of the operator's deck indicated a distance of 11 inches between the coal rib and the frame. The scoop had been moved to remove the victim.

  6. The height from the operator's deck to the mine roof was 31 inches.

  7. The height from the top of the battery compartment to the roof was 8 inches.

  8. Overhanging cap coal was protruding at the top of the coal rib on the immediate mine roof that measured 7 to 9 inches wide and 2 to 3 inches thick at the location where the victim's head contacted the coal rib. The measurement from the mine floor to the top of the overhanging brow on the outby coal rib where the accident occurred measured 29 1/2 inches.

  9. The lead tire on the operator's side of the scoop appeared to have run over and crushed an 8" x 8" x 12" solid Omega block. Running over this block may have contributed to the accident by causing the scoop to swivel as the tire ran over the block. It could not be determined if the block was crushed on this trip or a previous trip.

  10. The measurement taken from the top of the front headlight where the victim's head may have become fouled with the coal rib was 11 1/4 inches.

  11. The outside portion of the operator's deck at the rear of the headlight measured 6 inches from the coal rib.

  12. No mechanical deficiencies were found with the scoop that would have contributed to the accident, and there were no conditions/violations observed on the 480 S & S scoop that would have contributed to the cause of the accident. Functioning tests were performed on the scoop by MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training. Complete checks were made of the lights, panic switches and bars, all functions of the foot and hand brakes, steering, and electrical components.

  13. The overall length of the 480 S&S scoop was 27 feet 3 inches.

  14. The width of the scoop, as measured at the widest point, was 10 feet 2 inches.

  15. The victim had limited visibility due to the mining height and height of the scoop.

  16. The victim was hauling his third load of blocks through this area when the accident occurred.

  17. The scoop was being trammed with the supply bucket to the rear.


There were no eyewitnesses to the accident. Based upon the physical evidence observed and statements made during the investigation, it is the consensus of the accident investigation team that the accident and resultant fatality most likely occurred because the victim apparently failed to observe how close he was to the coal rib and inadvertently positioned himself between the machine and the coal rib. Contributing to the accident was the failure to safely maneuver in the open entry and the possibility that the Omega block was run over.


There were no violations of 30 CFR observed which contributed to the accident.

Submitted by:

Jerry E. Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager

Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
District Manager

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