DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
(UNDERGROUND COAL MINE)
FATAL POWERED-HAULAGE ACCIDENT
Mountaineer Mine (ID No. 46-06958)
Mingo Logan Coal Company
Wharncliffe, Mingo County, West Virginia
November 1, 1996
Curtiss Vance, Jr.
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 Friday, November 1, 1996, about 1:30 p.m., a powered-haulage
accident occurred in the No. 4 entry of the 9 Left pillar
section, about 2 feet outby survey station No. 9L894, resulting
in the death of Robert Keith Harmon, continuous mining machine
The 9 Left pillar crew was in the process of mining the first
lift from the No. 131 pillar block. The immediate mine roof
cracked along the ribs between the No. 130 and 131 pillar blocks
as the first lift was being mined. While the last shuttle car
was being loaded from the first lift, the immediate mine roof
cracked across the entry, connecting with the cracks that had
previously developed along the ribs. Small pieces of the cracked
roof began to fall onto the shuttle car. This caused the miners
to run outby the pillar line to get away from the bad roof. The
accident occurred when the continuous-mining-machine operator
fell in front of the shuttle car and was run over by the shuttle
car as it was being trammed out of the pillar lift. There were
no eyewitnesses, and it could not be determined if the victim
tripped or was struck by the shuttle car before he fell.
The Mountaineer Mine of Mingo Logan Coal Company is located near Wharncliffe, Mingo County, West Virginia. The mine was developed from the surface by 14 drift entries into the Lower Cedar Grove coalbed that averages from 60 to 66 inches in height. The mine began production on June 26, 1991.
Employment is provided for 296 persons on two production shifts and one maintenance shift. The mine produces an average of 27, 223 tons of raw coal daily from four continuous mining sections and one longwall section. Coal is transported from the sections to the surface via belt conveyor.
The immediate mine roof is sandstone and shale and is primarily supported with 48-inch resin rods.
Ventilation is induced into the mine by a 7-foot exhaust fan which produces about 500,000 cubic feet of air per minute, an 8-foot exhaust fan which produces about 300,000 cubic feet of air per minute, and a 54-inch by 13-inch bleeder exhaust fan which produces about 50,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The mine liberates approximately 170,000 cubic feet of methane daily in a 24-hour period.
Mingo Logan Coal Company is a subsidiary of Ashland Coal, Inc. The principal officers of Mingo Logan Coal Company are Markus J. Ladd, President; William Martin Garrick III, Director/Vice President/Treasurer; John Mac McGuire, Director; and Hall Barton Clark, Jr., Secretary.
The principal officers of Ashland Coal, Inc., are William Creel Payne, President; Clarence Henry Beston, Jr., Senior Vice President; Mark Roger Solocek, Senior Vice President; Kenneth George Woodring, Senior Vice President; Roy Franklin Layman, Administrative Vice President/Secretary; and Paul Hubert Buckholz, Treasurer.
The last Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) by the Mine Safety and Health Administration was completed September 24, 1996. Another AAA inspection was ongoing at the time of the accident.
STORY OF EVENT
On Friday, November 1, 1996, at 7:01 a.m., the 9 Left production crew entered the mine and traveled to the working section to continue pillar recovery. The crew consisted of Robert Keith Harmon and Jimmy Dingess, continuous mining machine operators; Burb England and David Ramey, roof bolting machine operators; Kenny Ramsey and Terry Foster, shuttle car operators; Danny Addair, scoop operator; Dallas Owens, electrician; and Keith Goins, section foreman. Production commenced at 7:40 a.m. in the No. 7 entry, utilizing the Christmas-tree-type pillar recovery plan.
Pillar recovery was completed from the Nos. 5, 6 and 7 entries without incident. At about 1:15 p.m., the radio remote control continuous mining machine had been moved to the No. 4 entry to begin recovery of the No. 131 pillar block. Harmon was operating the continuous mining machine and was in the process of mining the first lift when the immediate mine roof cracked along the ribs between the No. 130 and 131 pillar blocks. At about 1:30 p.m., Harmon was loading the last shuttle car from the first lift when the immediate mine roof cracked across the entry, connecting with the cracks that had previously developed along the ribs. Small pieces of rock from the mine roof began to fall onto the shuttle car. Foster, who was filling in for Dingess while Dingess ate lunch, shouted a warning. Foster, Dingess, and Harmon turned and began running toward the outby crosscut.
Ramsey, who was operating the off-standard shuttle car, began tramming the shuttle car away from the lift. The accident occurred when Harmon fell in front of the shuttle car and was run over. There were no eyewitnesses, and it could not be determined if Harmon tripped or was struck by the shuttle car before he fell.
England, who was in the crosscut between the No. 130 and 141 pillars, heard Foster's warning and ran through the outby crosscut where he saw Harmon underneath the shuttle car. He flagged Ramsey to stop, and Ramsey immediately stopped the shuttle car. England then told Ramsey to back the shuttle car off Harmon. Ramsey restarted the shuttle car and trammed it toward the continuous mining machine.
Goins arrived and discovered Harmon lying face down on top of the radio remote control box. Goins, assisted by other crew members, immediately began administering first aid, including CPR. Harmon was placed on a stretcher and carried to the man trip, where he was immediately transported to the surface while the crew continued CPR. Harmon was transported by ambulance to the Man Appalachian Regional Hospital where he died at 3:20 p.m.
INVESTIGATION OF THE ACCIDENT
The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 2:10 p.m. on November 1, 1996, that a serious accident had occurred. Mine Safety and Health Administration personnel began to arrive at the mine at 3:25 p.m. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until the accident investigation could be completed.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted an investigation with the assistance of mine management personnel and representatives of the miners.
All parties were briefed by mine personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. A discussion was held with the miners involved during the mining of the No. 131 pillar block where the accident occurred. Representatives from all parties traveled to the accident scene, where an examination was conducted. Photographs and relevant measurements were taken and sketches were made at the accident site.
Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the mine operator's training room on November 5, 1996.
The physical portion of the investigation was completed on November 5, 1996, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.
Records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with Part 48, Title 30 CFR.
Records and the examiner's date, time, and initials indicated that the required examinations were being conducted in the 9 Left pillar line.
- The mining height at the scene of the accident was 74
inches. The mining width of the entry between pillars was
18 feet 2 inches.
- Walkway clearance between the shuttle car and the coal rib
of the No. 130 pillar block was 3 to 4 feet wide while the
shuttle car was being loaded.
- The Christmas-tree-type method of extracting pillars was
used and was in the approved roof control plan dated July
- The mine roof was previously bolted with 48-inch resin-grouted rods
during development of the 9 Left section.
- Supplemental supports installed during pillar recovery were
6-inch by 6-inch square posts installed on 5-foot centers.
- The continuous-mining-machine trailing cable, along with
loose coal, was lying on the mine floor along the right rib
of the No. 4 entry between pillars No. 130 and 131.
- The equipment involved in the accident was the off-standard
Joy 10SC32-64AXKKE-5 shuttle car (Serial No. ET16305)
equipped with a full operator deck canopy and 6 1/2-inch
- The shuttle car operator's visibility was through an
opening measuring 8 inches between the top of the sideboard
and bottom of the canopy, looking over toward the reel side
of the shuttle car.
- The shuttle car operator was facing in the direction of
travel when he started tramming the shuttle car from the
- Clearance between the mine floor and frame of the Joy 10SC
shuttle car measured 10 inches.
- The mine floor varied from dry to damp, with 3 to 4 inches
of loose to compacted coal present.
- The conveyor boom of the continuous-mining machine measured
9 feet 8 inches from the discharge end to the rear bumper
- It was revealed during interviews with Kenny Ramsey,
shuttle car operator, that the tram direction control had
been reversed upon stopping the shuttle car under the
continuous miner conveyor boom.
- With the tram direction control placed in reverse and the
tram pedal engaged, the trailing cable would have raised up
off the mine floor very suddenly as the cable reel began
taking up the slack cable when the shuttle car was trammed
from the pillar line.
- The radio remote control box was attached to the
continuous-miner operator by a shoulder strap.
- After the shuttle car was trammed back off the victim, he
was observed lying on top of the radio remote control box
in the location of his waist.
- The radio remote control box measured 8 inches at the
- There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.
- Harmon had a history of a weak right knee from an injury incurred during 1994. According to Harmon's family, the knee would occasionally give way, which could cause him to trip or fall.
The accident and resultant fatality occurred when the victim fell into the roadway as the shuttle car was being trammed out of the pillar lift. There were no eyewitnesses, and it could not be determined if the victim tripped or was struck by the shuttle car or the trailing cable to the shuttle car before he fell.
There were no contributing violations issued during the investigation of the accident.
Respectfully submitted by:
Curtiss Vance, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Assistant District Manager
Earnest C. Teaster
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