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I.D. NO. 15-14492

MARCH 11, 1996


Allen L. Head


Margaret Bishop
Coal Mine Safety and Health Investigators

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 YMCA Drive, Madisionville, Kentucky 42431-9010
Rexford Music, District Manager

General Information

Costain Coal, Inc., operates Baker Mine, which is located on Highway 270, approximately 6 miles east of Highway 141, in Union County, Kentucky. Baker Mine began production on September 18,1989, and employees 431 miners. The mine is accessed by three shafts and one slope. The average mining height is 84 inches. This is a four section mine utilizing three continuous miner sections and one longwall section, producing 20,000 tons of bituminous coal each 24 hour period. The continuous miner sections work two 10 hour production shifts daily while the longwall section works two 12 hour production shifts. Coal haulage on the continuous miner sections is provided by Joy 10 SC shuttle cars that transport coal from the continuous miners to the mainline conveyor belts. Diesel and battery powered scoop tractors are used at the mine for transportation of materials, while men are transported by diesel powered units. All self-propelled haulage equipment is rubber tired.

The East Portal Shaft was placed in operation on October 4, 1995. The shaft is fully grouted, pan lined, and equipped with two water rings. The shaft is 26 feet in diameter and 1000 feet indepth. This shaft has two conveyances, one for the transportation of persons with a 25 person capacity, and a supply cage used only for the transportation of supplies. There is no separation between the two conveyances.

The principal officers of Costain Coal, Inc., Baker Mine are as follows:
T. H. Parker....................................President
William M. Potter............................Vice President
William C. Adelman.........................General Manager
Kevin Vaughn..................................Loss Prevention Advisor

The last regular safety and health inspection (AAA) of this mine was completed on December 18, 1995. A regular inspection was ongoing at the time of the accident.

Description of the Accident

On Monday, March 11, 1996, at 7:00 a.m., the day shift crew reported for work, under the supervision of Eddie Barber, mine foreman. Wesley M. Littlepage (victim) and Rickey Bowles,utility men, entered the mine by the Caney Creek shaft, and were sent to water and grade the No. 2 Unit supply road. They continued to work on this project until about 11:00 a.m., when they were told to report to the East Portal shaft.

At 7:30 a.m., an MSHA Inspector issued a 104(a) citation for ice accumulations in the shaft. The ice which had formed on the shaft structure and walls was approximately 1 to 12 inches in thickness. The ice accumulated for a distance of approximately 600 feet in depth, and no removal operations had been started. From October, 1995, when the shaft was placed in service, ice accumulations has fallen disabling the hoist and damaging the mancage. The inspector set the time for abatement at 4:00 p.m., as this was the time the second shift was scheduled to report forwork. After issuing the citation the inspector remained on the surface to examine required records.

When Littlepage and Bowles returned to the surface, they drove to the East Portal shaft. They were met by Ken Ford, maintenance director, and Kevin Vaughn, loss prevention advisor, who instructed them in the company procedures for removing the ice. These procedures had been established due to previous work in the shaft, including ice removal. Littlepage and Bowles were informed that Bill Parker and Leland Dukes, mechanics, were already in the shaft removing ice.

Parker and Dukes came outside to have lunch at approximately 12:30 p.m. Littlepage and Bowles took their places in the process. Littlepage and Bowles positioned themselves on top of the man cage and using the inspection mode, they lowered the man cage to a depth of approximately 380 feet below the shaft collar. They continued removing the ice until they reached a depth of approximately 420 feet, without incident.

Parker called Littlepage and Bowles on the cage phone and told them that he and Dukes were ready to re-enter the shaft. Bowles began to store the tools and clean ice from the deck of the man cage while Littlepage went to the cage controls to hoist them to the surface.

At about 2:15 p.m., Littlepage and Bowles were struck by ice which fell from an unknown location. The impact knocked Bowles to the cage deck. When Bowles recovered, he saw Littlepage laying under several large pieces of ice. Bowles immediately checked Littlepage's condition and called outside to inform Alan Worbois, maintenance foreman, of the accident. He requested an ambulance or Life Flight be summoned. Worbois brought the mancage to the surface from the controls located in the hoist house.

When the man cage reached the surface, Bowles was met by Vaughn. After the initial assessment of Littlepage's condition, they decided to remove him from the deck and lay him on the ground. CPR was immediately started and continued until relieved by the Webster County Ambulance Service. While Littlepage was enroute to the Union County Hospital, the ambulance was met by Webster County Coroner Larry Vanover. Vanover examined Littlepage and pronounced him dead. He instructed the ambulance driver to transport Littlepage to the Vanover Funeral Home in Clay, Kentucky.


Supervisor Tom Dupree was notified of the accident by MSHA Inspector Harold Gamblin at approximately 2:20 p.m. The investigation team arrived at the mine at 3:00 p.m., and began a joint investigation with the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. Employees of Costain Coal, Inc., and Baker Mine participated in the investigation.

The accident scene was examined, measurements and photographs were taken, and related equipment was examined. Interviews of persons who had knowledge of the accident were conducted by MSHA and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals at the Caney Creek Training facility on March 12.


Records indicated that required training had been conducted in accordance with the requirements of 30 CFR, Part 48.

Physical Factors Involved

The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence of the accident:
  1. The East Portal Shaft is 26 feet in diameter and 1000 feetin depth. This shaft has two conveyances, one to transport persons with a 25 person maximum capacity, and a supply cage used for the transportation materials and supplies.

  2. The supply cage is not equipped with the safety devices required for the transportation of persons. The top of the man cage is used as a work platform for ice removal and other shaft related operations. A hand rail had been installed around the perimeter of the work platform, but safe means, in the form of overhead protection from falling objects, was not provided for miners to work under. As the supply cage could not be used for the transportation of miners, it was not used in ice removal operations. This allowed the ice to be removed from only one side of the shaft.

  3. Adverse weather conditions had occurred prior to the accident. Rain and melting snow produced an extreme amount of water to drain between the pan lining and the concrete lining of the shaft. The volume of intake air being drawn into the shaft produced extremely cold conditions.

  4. A crack had developed in the concrete lining, allowing water to seep into the shaft. The water rings were not sealed adequately, therefore; water was escaping into the shaft. Gunther-Nash Mining Construction Co., had been contacted prior to the accident, and were scheduled to examine the water leaking problems in the shaft on March 11th.

  5. There were several occasions prior to the accident where falling ice produced problems. On February 8, 1996, ice accumulated in the shaft, dislodged, and fell on the top of the man cage requiring it to be taken out of service for repairs. On March 10, 1996, ice fell from the shaft wall and injured a miner who was unloading a supply car from the supply cage. At 8:15 p.m., on March 10, 1996, the man cage was taken out of service due to ice falling down the shaft and damaging the #4 level approach limit switch.

  6. The supply cage was not designed for the transportation of persons, consequently it could not be used to remove ice from the entire perimeter of the shaft. The supply cage was positioned approximately 500 feet below the man cage duringthe ice removal process.

  7. The operator had posted a written policy requiring the supply cage to be lower than the man cage when work was being performed in the shaft.

  8. Removal of the ice was being performed on the man cage side of the shaft only. The miners removed the ice as the man cage was lowered.

  9. There were no safe means in the form of over head protection provided for miners when work was being performed from the top of the man cage.

  10. The ice striking the two miners came from an unknown location.


The accident sequence began when ice accumulated in the East Portal shaft. The accident potential was increased when ice was removed from only one side of the shaft. There were no safe means in the form of over head protection provided for miners when work was being done from the top of the man cage. The accident occurred when ice, which fell from an unknown location, struck the victim.

Enforcement Actions

  1. 103(k) Order No. 4068886 was issued to Costain Coal, Inc.,to assure the safety of all persons until an examination of the East Portal shaft was conducted.

  2. Safeguard No. 4066733 was issued requiring specific measures for the future ice removal operations.

Respectfully submitted by:

Allen L. Head
Coal Mine Inspector
District 10

Margaret Bishop
Coal Mine Inspector
District 10

Approved by:

Rexford Music
District Manager
District 10

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB96C09