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District 4



No. 2 Mine (ID No. 46-08516)
Little Otter Mining, Inc.
Itmann, Wyoming County, West Virginia

October 21, 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 Teaster, Jr., District Manager



On Monday, October 21, 1996, around 7:45 p.m., Roby Hatfield, continuous-mining-machine operator, age 30, was mining in the No. 2 face on the 002 MMU with a National Mine Service (Eimco) 2460 continuous-mining machine. The mining height at this location was 35 inches. According to witnesses and physical evidence, the victim had completed mining a 20-foot deep lift from the right side of the No. 2 face and was in the process of moving the machine to mine the left lift. The victim was using a radio remote control device to operate the continuous-mining machine. The lift lever actuator slide, which must be lifted to an upward position before the tram features of the machine can be utilized, had been taped in an upward position. While tramming the machine, the victim placed himself between the machine and the solid coal rib. The trailing cable of the machine fell from its carrying position, contacting the remote control and splitting the tram control levers, which caused the boom end of the machine to move to the right, crushing the victim between the machine, roof, and coal rib.

The continuous-mining machine was being operated with a radio remote control box which had been rendered unsafe because the lift lever actuator slide had been taped in an upward position, defeating the safety feature.


The No. 2 mine is operated by Little Otter Mining, Inc., and is located near Itmann, Wyoming County, West Virginia. The mine enters the Pocahontas No. 6 coal seam through four drift openings and averages 35 to 48 inches in height. Employment is provided for a total of 25 miners, with 21 working underground and 4 working on the surface. There are two production shifts and one maintenance shift working 5 to 6 days a week. The mine produces 500 tons of coal daily from one continuous-mining section. The main section (002 MMU) is on the advance. Coal is being loaded from the working faces by a continuous-mining machine. Coal is loaded onto two battery-powered S & S scoops, is transported to the section feeder, and then to the surface via a belt haulage system. Employees and supplies are transported into the mine by battery-powered scoops.

The immediate mine roof is comprised of sandstone and laminated shale. The roof is supported with 5/8-inch-diameter, 36-inch conventional roof bolts. The roof supports are installed on 4- to 5-foot lengthwise and crosswise spacing. The main headings are developed on 50- by 70-foot centers. The roof control plan in effect at this mine was approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on July 9, 1996.

Ventilation is induced into the mine by one 5-foot blowing fan, producing 75,000 cubic feet of air a minute.

The last regular inspection (AAA) by MSHA at this mine was completed on September 14, 1996. The principal officers of Little Otter Mining, Inc., are Oley K. Bishop, President/Mine Foreman, and Don Nester, Safety Director.


On Monday, October 21, 1996, the evening-shift crew of the main section (002 MMU), under the supervision of Paul Bassham, section foreman, entered the mine at 3:05 p.m. via a battery-powered, rubber-tired personnel carrier. Around 3:30 p.m., the crew arrived at the main section. Bassham examined the working section and instructed the crew about their assignments. Mining commenced in the No. 7 face and progressed on cycle without incident until approximately 7:10 p.m. when mining was being conducted in the No. 2 face.

Lanny Hatfield, scoop operator, was entering the No. 2 face and witnessed his brother, Roby Hatfield, victim/continuous-mining-machine operator, tramming the machine out of the right side of the face using the radio remote control. Lanny Hatfield stated that as he approached the machine, he saw Roby Hatfield near the rear of the machine reaching into the operator's deck. Suddenly, the rear (boom end) of the machine veered right, pinning the victim between the machine, roof, and coal rib.

Lanny Hatfield got off his scoop and traveled to the accident scene to try to assist the victim. Lanny Hatfield found the victim leaning forward toward the face, where the cable hook on the rear of the machine had pinned his head against the roof and coal rib. Lanny Hatfield stated that he attempted, without success, to move the machine to free the victim. Lanny Hatfield summoned help from the other employees.

Michael Francis, scoop operator, stated that Mike Adkins, scoop operator, informed him of the accident and asked him to call outside for an ambulance. Francis then traveled to the accident scene to assist in recovery. Adkins stated that Lanny Hatfield was summoning help and wanted Denzel Glanden, section electrician, notified to assist. James Sloan and Brian Lester, roof-bolter operators, were working in the No. 4 face when they heard the call for help and went immediately to the accident to assist. Glanden was at the section feeder when he became aware of the accident and went immediately to the scene.

When Glanden arrived at the scene, he decided to move the machine to free the victim, but Lanny Hatfield would not allow him to do so. Glanden said the victim showed no signs of life at this time. Glanden went to the section power center, disconnected the cable coupler for the continuous miner, and locked and tagged it out of service. Glanden stated that at this time, the circuit breaker for the continuous-mining machine was not tripped.

Paul Bassham, foreman, was in the No. 7 face when he heard the summons for help. Bassham stated there was confusion when he arrived at the scene. Bassham attempted to use the scoop to free the victim, first by trying to lift the boom of the continuous-mining machine. This failed, so a chain was hooked from the scoop to the frame of the continuous-mining machine to allow the machine to be slewed several inches, which freed the victim. The victim was placed on a metal stretcher and transported to the surface to the awaiting ambulance. The victim was transported by ambulance to the coroner's office in Pineville, West Virginia, where he was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Diawn.


MSHA was notified of the accident at 7:50 p.m. on October 21, 1996. MSHA personnel began arriving at the mine at 10:30 p.m. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the 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 personnel and miners from Little Otter Mining, Inc.

MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training conducted interviews of persons believed to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident. The interviews were conducted in the conference room of the MSHA office at Pineville, West Virginia, on October 23, 1996.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed October 24, 1996, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.



Records indicate that all training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48. An examination of the victim's training records revealed that he had received all required pre-requisite training. Oley Bishop, mine superintendent, and Don Nester, safety manager, gave all required annual, newly employed, hazard, and task training to each employee at this mine. A review of the task training revealed that proper task training had been given to the victim.

Physical Factors

  1. The entry widths on the section (002 MMU) averaged approximately 20 feet.

  2. The mining height was approximately 35 inches (crawling height) at the accident scene.

  3. The face being mined at the time of the accident was the No. 2 face.

  4. The continuous-mining machine being utilized at the time of the accident was a National Mine Service (Eimco) 2460, operated with a Moog radio remote control box, Model No. 120-188-Dol, Approval No. 9B-166-0, Serial No. 211.

  5. The radio remote control box for the continuous-mining machine was equipped with a lift lever actuator slide which must be raised into an upper position before any tramming features can be utilized. This lift lever actuator was taped in the upward position, defeating the safety feature.

  6. The continuous-mining-machine operator positioning himself in close proximity to the continuous-mining machine, while tramming the machine, may have contributed to the accident.

  7. Physical evidence indicated that the continuous-mining machine's trailing cable fell off the cable hook located at the rear of the machine. The cable struck and activated the left actuator tram control, on the radio remote control box, in the reverse position, causing the continuous-mining machine to veer to the right.

  8. Defeating the purpose of the lift actuator device allows the tram levers to function without the continuous-mining-machine operator having to release the lift actuator slide.

  9. The victim had just finished step-cutting the No. 2 right-side face.

  10. The No. 2 right-side face being mined measured 24 feet in length.

  11. The victim had trammed the continuous-mining machine in reverse out of the right-side face to within 8 feet of the right outby corner rib.

  12. Nine inches of height existed between the top of the machine and the roof.

  13. According to testimony from miners interviewed, the victim may have been attempting to hang the trailing cable onto the side cable hooks, located along the side of the continuous-mining machine and at the right rear side of the operator's deck, or may have been reaching into the operator's compartment (could not determine what he was reaching for) when the trailing cable fell and struck the left tram lever, causing the machine to veer to the right.

  14. Investigators believe that while backing the continuous mining machine out of the No. 2 face, the continuous mining machine's trailing cable slipped from the machine's rear right-side hook and fell onto the machine's radio remote control box unit, inadvertently activating the left tram lever, while the continuous mining machine operator was positioned in close proximity between the machine and the coal rib. The continuous mining machine operator was crushed between the machine and the roof and coal rib. The continuous mining machine operator maintains the machine's trailing cable as part of his operation. A continuous mining machine helper is not utilized at this mine site.

  15. During the investigation, the tape was removed from the lift lever actuator device of the radio remote control. The device worked without malfunction.

  16. None of the persons interviewed acknowledged that these controls had ever been in a taped position, rendering the controls unsafe to operate. Because the unit had been used for a number of hours prior to the accident and was routinely placed on the mine floor and exposed to wetness and loose coal conditions, investigators could not determine when or by whom the lift lever was taped in the up position.

  17. The continuous-mining machine was tested by the investigation team, and a functional test was conducted by using the Moog radio remote control box. All functions of the machine and radio remote control box operated normally.

  18. Examinations of the electrical weekly examinations revealed that electrical weekly examinations were being conducted and recorded in accordance with 30 CFR 75.512.

  19. The Moog radio remote control box is left underground on the working section between working shifts. A cap lamp battery unit is located outside at the mine office lamp charging station. Each battery is brought outside at the end of the working shift and placed on charge by the operator. There are three of these battery units being utilized at this mine site.


The accident and resultant fatality occurred because a radio remote control unit, that had been rendered unsafe, was used to operate the National Mine Service continuous-mining machine. The radio remote control unit was equipped with a lift actuator slide, a safety device intended to prevent inadvertent tram operation. The lift actuator slide was intentionally taped in an upward position, thereby defeating this tram control safety feature.


A 104(a) Citation, No. 3961622, was issued, stating in part that the equipment was not maintained in a safe operating condition, a violation of Section 75.1725(a). The National Mine Service (Eimco) 2460 continuous-mining machine, Serial No. 7888, being used with the Moog radio remote on the 002 MMU, had the lift actuator slide taped in an upward position, allowing the tram levers to function without the operator having to release the lift lever actuator slide.

Respectfully submitted by:

Jerry E. Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager

Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
District Managerm

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB96C26