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District 3

(Underground Coal Mine)


Mine 1-A (I.D. No. 46-06715)
Carter-ROAG Coal Co.
Helvetia, Randolph County, West Virginia

January 31, 1997

John D. Mehaulic, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector


Robert L. Huggins
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

William L. Sperry
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector(Electrical)

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
Coal Mine Safety and Health, District 3
5012 Mountaineer Mall
Morgantown, West Virginia 26505
Timothy Thompson, District Manager


The Carter-ROAG Coal Co., Mine 1-A, is located near Helvetia, West Virginia. The mine has four drift openings into the Sewell "A" coal seam, and the average coal seam height measures from 38 to 42 inches; however, the seam height on the MMU 002 conventional working section had increased to an average of 54 inches. Employment is provided for 77 persons working underground and six persons working on the surface.

The mine produces coal on the day and afternoon shifts, while maintenance work is done on the midnight shift. Production is performed on the midnight shift after maintenance is completed. Coal is transported out of the mine by a belt conveyor system. A track-trolley haulage system is used to transport miners and supplies to the mouth of each section. Rubber-tired equipment is then used to transport miners and supplies to the face areas.

The mine currently has three working sections. Two sections operate remote-controlled continuous miners using extended cut mining methods with 21 SC shuttle cars as section haulage equipment. One section is a conventional section using S&S battery-powered scoop haulage equipment.

During the previous quarter, the mine did not show a liberation of methane. A regular safety and health inspection was in progress at the time of this accident.

The last regular safety and health inspection was completed on December 23, 1996.

The company officials are listed below:

Adrian P. DeMonchy................................President
James D. Panetta......................................Executive Vice President
David L. Stevens......................................Superintendent/Principal Health and Safety Officer


On Friday, January 31, 1997, at approximately 4 p.m., the crew of the 002 section, under the supervision of Mitchell Silman, began their shift. The crew started underground but had trouble getting through the track switch on the surface. After getting the track-mounted mantrip through the switch, the crew proceeded underground to the mantrip station located at the mouth of the 002 working section.

When the crew arrived at the mantrip station, Silman gave work instructions and identified where the equipment was located on the section. Silman told Richard Miller and John "Ed" Wegman, Roof Bolter Operators, that the roof bolter was in the crosscut between No. 5 to No. 6 entries, and they were to move it to the No. 1 entry and begin bolting the No. 1 face. Silman told James "Ed" Holcomb, Cutting Machine Operator, that the cutting machine and coal drill were in the No. 9 entry. Silman told Jerry Davis, Scoop Operator, to start loading coal from the No. 2 face.

While Davis was doing his preoperational examination of the No. 11 battery-powered S&S scoop, he discovered the batteries were low and reported this to Silman. Silman told Davis to change the batteries. Davis, Wegman, Miller, and Holcomb changed the batteries on the No. 11 scoop. After the batteries were changed, a piece of conveyor belt was attached to the back of the scoop, and Davis transported the crew members onto the working section.

Gary Gedraitis stayed at the shop located at the mouth of the section to talk with Bernard Carpenter, Day Shift Mechanic, and to get fuses to repair the No. 13 scoop. Gedraitis proceeded to the section, via a 3-wheel battery-powered personal carrier which he parked outby the No. 13 scoop in the No. 3 entry.

The roof bolters trammed the roof bolting machine to the face of the No. 1 entry and began bolting operations. Silman informed Davis of the haulage pattern they would use to haul from the No. 2 face and instructed Holcomb to prepare the No. 9 entry so it could be cut, drilled, and shot.

Production started with Davis and Silman hauling coal out of the face of the No. 2 entry and proceeded normally until the time of the accident. Davis, operating the No. 11 scoop had hauled three or four scoop loads of coal, and Silman, operating the No. 7 scoop, had hauled two or three loads of coal when the accident occurred.

Silman, on his last load of coal, left the designated haulage pattern and hauled down the No. 3 entry to the second line of crosscuts. He stopped in the intersection with the scoop articulated, causing the operator's compartment to be the farthest projection out into the No. 3 entry, which was the designated haulroad. Silman summoned Gedraitis to check the No. 7 scoop. Silman told Gedraitis that he thought a jack pin was broken at the scoop's bucket. Gedraitis went over to the scoop and stood next to the right-front tire and asked Silman to move the bucket up and down so he could see if the pin was broken.

While Gedraitis was checking the scoop bucket, Davis came through the check curtain installed between the No. 2 and No. 3 entries, running bucket first, and trammed into the No. 7 scoop. The bucket of Davis' scoop went into the operator's compartment of Silman's scoop, causing chest injuries to Silman. Davis, after realizing the impact, backed up and got off the No. 11 scoop to see what he had hit.

Gedraitis, who is also an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), communicated with Silman about his injuries immediately following the accident. Gedraitis, with assistance from Davis, got Silman out of the scoop. Shortly after being removed from the scoop Silman lost consciousness. No response or vital signs were detected and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was started immediately. Davis went to the section telephone and called outside for assistance. Silman was transported to the surface as CPR was being administered.

The Randolph County Emergency Services, Valley Unit, arrived at the mine shortly after Silman had arrived on the surface. The emergency services personnel examined Silman and detected no sign of life. The emergency service continued CPR and transported Silman to an area where they could meet HealthNet 1 Aeromedical Services Inc. The HealthNet 1 arrived at 6:11 p.m. and began resuscitation techniques on Silman. At 6:24 p.m. Dr. Jonathan Newman and Dr. John Prescott, via radio from the West Virginia University Hospital Medical Command Center, pronounced Silman dead and instructed the crew to stop resuscitation measures on the victim. Silman was transported to Davis Memorial Hospital by ambulance and at approximately 7:30 p.m., Dr. Tim Sears confirmed Silman's death.


  1. Mitchell Silman, section foreman, also operated a battery-powered scoop and hauled coal.

  2. The battery-powered scoops are operated bucket first with the operator in a reclining position.

  3. The scoops were hauling through a ventilation control device (check curtain), when traveling through the crosscut from the No. 2 entry to the No. 3 entry, with their buckets loaded and in the raised position.

  4. A blind spot was created on the left front side of the scoop when the bucket was loaded and in a raised position. As Davis traveled through the check curtain, he stated that he was watching the right coal rib because he knew Gedraitis was working on a disabled scoop located in that area.

  5. At the beginning of the shift, Silman instructed Davis to use a circle coal haulage pattern.

  6. Gedraitis stated he heard a warning device (bell) just prior to the accident.

  7. No defects were found on the No. 11 scoop when it was inspected after the accident. The No. 7 scoop could not be operated due to the operating controls being damaged as a result of the accident.

  8. The coal seam measured approximately 54 inches at the accident site.


The accident and resultant fatality occurred when the victim stopped his battery-powered scoop for a maintenance evaluation in an intersection that was located in the pre-determined haulage pattern. The scoop had stopped as it was negotiating the turn through the intersection and the operator's compartment was exposed to oncoming vehicles. The visibility of the tramming scoop operator was very limited by traveling bucket first with the bucket in the raised position loaded with coal.


  1. A 103(k) Order No. 3496010 was issued to assure the safety of any person in the affected area, inby the No. 7 belt conveyor drive unit, including the entire MMU 002 section and equipment.

  2. A Safeguard, No.3719483 was issued under 30 CFR 75.1403, requiring all employees involved in scoop haulage to be trained in proper proceedures to perform their jobs safely.

Respectfully submitted by:

John D. Mehaulic
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Robert L. Huggins
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

William L. Sperry
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector(Electrical)

Approved by:

Robert L.Crumrine
Assistant District Manager for Inspection Programs

Timothy J. Thompson
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB97C02