DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
SURFACE COAL MINE
FATAL FALL OF MATERIAL
EAST VOLUNTEER (I.D. NO. 15-02013)
ANDALEX RESOURCES, INC., CIMARRON DIVISION
MADISONVILLE, HOPKINS COUNTY, KENTUCKY
DECEMBER 19, 1996
ALLEN L. HEAD
COAL MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH INSPECTOR
ORIGINATING OFFICE - MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
100 YMCA DRIVE, MADISONVILLE, KENTUCKY 42431-9019
REXFORD MUSIC, DISTRICT MANAGER
Andalex Resources Inc., Cimarron Division, a subsidiary of Andalex Resources, B.V., which is located at 9300 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, Kentucky, operates the East Volunteer mine. The Newcoal Pit, ID 010-0, where the accident occurred, is located in Hopkins County, near Madisonville, Kentucky. The mine operates six days per week, working three shifts a day, and produces 4000 tons of coal daily. Employment consists of 121 Andalex employees and three independent contractor employees.
The area method of surface mining is employed to recover the Kentucky Nos. 11 and 12 coal seams, which average 72" and 60" thick, respectively. The Kentucky No. 13 coal seam, ranging in thickness from 0" to 24" locally, is also recovered in areas where it is economically feasible. After the land is cleared, the topsoil and subsoil are removed and stored in stockpiles. The overburden is then drilled, blasted, and removed by a dragline, utilizing the spoil side stripping method.
The coal is then removed by crawler excavator (backhoe) and hauled by trucks to the preparation plant, where it is prepared and shipped by unit train. The land is then reclaimed, which completes the mining cycle.
The principal officers of Andalex Resources, Inc., are as follows:
Howard Ratti.........................Vice President Eastern Operations
James Donald Ashby..............Division Mine Manager
Ray Cartwright.......................Safety Director
The last Mine Safety and Health Administration Regular Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was completed September 23, 1996. There was an AAA inspection ongoing at the time of the accident.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On December 19, 1996, at approximately 3:00 p.m., the second shift crew reported for work under the supervision of Pit Foreman W.C. Wilson. The truck drivers were sent to haul coal from Island Mine #1 underground mine located on Andalex property, while the dragline operator and oiler were sent to the Newcoal Pit (010-0). At about 4:50 p.m. the truck drivers were told to report to the Newcoal Pit to haul the No. 11 coal. Production continued normally until 6:15 p.m.
Gaither Dickerson (victim), backhoe operator, was in the process of loading an International 350 B Payhauler end-dump truck which was being operated by Kenny Allen. As Allen's truck was being loaded Gene Whitmer, truck driver, drove his truck down the pit ramp to position it for the next load. When he attempted to position his truck between the backhoe and the pit floor, one of the front wheels dropped into the hole. Using the backhoe, Dickerson pushed the truck out of the hole. Once this was done Whitmer decided to back his truck up the ramp and wait for Allen to exit the pit.
While Whitmer was backing up the ramp, he heard Denzil Webster, dragline operator, yell "look out" over the radio. Whitmer saw mud and water rushing from the highwall parallel to the ramp toward Dickerson and Allen. Allen, whose truck was still being loaded, saw the wall of mud and water coming toward him. His truck was pushed approximately 30 feet along the pit floor before being turned over on its side. Allen escaped through the window. The backhoe was pushed along with the truck, and except for a portion of the boom, it was buried in mud and water.
Recovery operations began immediately. Dickerson's body was removed from the cab of the backhoe at 1:25 a.m. on December 20.
MSHA Inspector George Newlin was notified of the accident by Andalex Resources, Inc. Safety Director Ray Cartwright at approximately 6:50 p.m. The investigation team arrived at the mine at 7:50 p.m., and began a joint investigation with the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. Employees of Andalex Resources Inc., Cimarron Division participated in the investigation.
Interviews of persons who had knowledge of the accident were conducted by MSHA, and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals at the Andalex Resources Inc., Cimarron Division office on December 20.
Records indicated that the 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:
- The location of the 010-0 Pit is in the old Pond River
- The 010-0 Pit highwall, which is approximately 65 feet in
height, intersected an old river channel.
- This river channel consisted of approximately 65 feet of
unconsolidated material which included silt, clay, sand, and
- This unconsolidated material was inherently wet, which
greatly reduced the stability of the highwall.
- An abnormal amount of rain had fallen in the week preceding
the accident. Local temperatures at the time of the
accident were below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Examinations conducted during the prior shift showed the
condition of the highwall as "Mud over rock".
- There had been no highwall failures reported in this pit for
a period of over three years. After the last reported
highwall failure occurred the Ground Control Plan was
- The highwall failure was rounded or arched in shape when
viewed from above. The top of the highwall collapsed
downward along an arched plane in the unconsolidated
material, and slid into the pit from the toe of the
- Part of the failure plane was exposed at the top of the
highwall in the mud slide location. This failure plane was
a nearly vertical sandy face.
- When the unconsolidated material slid from the highwall into
the pit, it did not travel up the opposing spoil bank but
followed the pit floor along the highwall and ramp. The
material flowed in a somewhat fluid or thick viscous
fashion, rather than tumbling downward as normally occurs in
a highwall collapse.
- There were no factors which indicated a possible highwall failure prior to the accident.
The accident occurred when the unconsolidated material which comprised the highwall inadvertently failed and collapsed into the work area, fatally injuring the backhoe operator.
- 103(k) Order No. 4064023 was issued to assure the safety of any persons in the area until the investigation was completed.
Allen L. Head
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
District Manager, Coal Mine Safety and Health
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