DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
(SURFACE AREA OF UNDERGROUND COAL MINE)
FATAL ELECTRICAL ACCIDENT
A & B Thomas Mine # 1 (ID No. 46-06713)
A & B Thomas, Inc.
Canon Coal Haulers, Inc. (ID No. IAJ)
Fenwick, Nicholas County, West Virginia
March 18, 1997
Jerry E. Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Ernie Ross, 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
Release Date: June 18, 1997
Canon Coal Haulers, Inc.'s main corporate office is located at Bluefield (Mercer County), West Virginia. Canon is an independent contractor, providing coal haulage services for A & B Thomas, Inc. Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., provides employment for 31 truck drivers, 7 of which haul coal from the A & B Thomas Mine #1.
Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., has hauled coal for this underground mine since November 14, 1996. Canon Coal Haulers, Inc.'s truck terminal is located at Lansing, Fayette County, West Virginia.
Coal is loaded by A & B Thomas, Inc., employees with an endloader at the surface stockpile. The coal is then hauled from Fenwick, Nicholas County, West Virginia, to Mossy Eagle Preparation Plant, Kingston, Fayette County, West Virginia. The round-trip travel distance is approximately 120 miles.
Three loads of coal are hauled during a normal shift, with an average of 40 tons per truckload. This coal is processed and shipped as pea coal from the preparation plant to different locations.
The principal officers of Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., are: Clovis D. Cox, President/Treasurer; Sherman Nester, Jr., Secretary; Mike Taylor, General Truck Manager; and George Lockhart, Truck Operations Foreman.
The A & B Thomas Mine #1 is located at Fenwick, Nicholas County, West Virginia. This mine began mining operations on October 7, 1996. The mine provides employment for 20 employees, with 16 working underground on one continuous-haulage section and 4 working on the surface. Coal is produced 5 and 6 days a week on the day and evening shifts.
Four drift openings are entered into the Sewell coal seam which averages 42 inches in height. After the coal is mined from the underground mine, it is loaded from the surface coal stockpile into coal trucks owned by Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., and is transported to the Mossy Eagle Preparation Plant at Kingston, West Virginia.
The principal officers of A & B Thomas, Inc., are: Teddy Alderman, Superintendent, and Emery Smallman, Safety Director and Underground Mine Foreman. The last regular AAA Inspection at this mine site by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was completed on February 18, 1997.
STORY OF EVENT
On Tuesday, March 18, 1997, approximately 5:30 a.m., James Carte, a truck driver, began his regularly scheduled shift. A preoperational inspection of the 1989 Mack Denedyne tractor-trailer truck was conducted by Carte. Carte had transported one load of coal from mine property before the accident, according to the other truck drivers interviewed. The average truck hauls approximately 40 tons of coal. It takes about 3 hours to complete the round-trip haulage to the preparation plant.
After Carte hauled one load of coal from the A & B Thomas Mine #1 to the Mossy Eagle Preparation Plant, his wife came to the main truck's terminal office at Lansing, West Virginia, and advised Carte that they were scheduled to attend Magistrate Court for some personal business. After attending the meeting at Magistrate Court, Carte reported to the truck shop and resumed the operation of his assigned coal haulage truck.
Carte drove his truck to the A & B Thomas Mine #1, where it was loaded at the coal stockpile. He then proceeded along the haulroad toward the main highway. Carte had driven approximately 0.3 of a mile along the haulroad, when he met another coal truck being operated by Donnie Legg. Legg was traveling toward the A & B Thomas Mine #1 to load his last load of coal for the day.
Carte pulled over at the first haulroad passing area from the mine, which is known to the truck drivers as the high-voltage pullover area, to allow the oncoming coal truck to pass. According to Legg, he and Carte spoke briefly on the CB radio. Legg then went to the mine site.
At 2:20 p.m., Carte drove his truck from the pullover area for a distance of approximately 50 feet onto the haulroad. The truck was stopped underneath the 23,000 VAC Allegheny Power Company transmission lines, which cross the haulroad at this area. It is not known if Carte realized that he was stopping underneath the high-voltage transmission lines. Carte apparently traveled to the passenger side of the truck bed and released the chain hooks that retain the tarping device. He then walked to the front end of the bed where the tarping framework release mechanism was located. Carte pulled the tarping device clutch brake to release the automatic tarping device that distributes the tarp cover over the coal in the truck bed. The tarping device is a spring-actuated assembly.
When the tarping device release mechanism was actuated, the framework that stores the tarping material traveled in an upward, arcing direction toward the rear of the truck bed. The aluminum framework mast came in contact with one phase of the 23,000 VAC high-voltage transmission line as it was ascending from the front end of the truck bed.
Carte's hand was apparently touching the release clutch brake handle when the tarping frame-work mast contacted the high-voltage line. Carte was electrocuted and thrown about 11 feet from the truck.
Approximately 2:30 p.m., Glen Abbott, a vendor employed by Abbott Brothers Mine Sales and Service, left the A & B Thomas Mine #1 and arrived at the area of the haulroad where Carte's truck was located. According to Abbott, the victim was observed lying in a drainage ditch next to the haulroad, approximately 11 feet from the truck. Abbott also observed the tarping framework in contact with the high-voltage transmission line.
Abbott returned to the mine site and notified Legg that Carte was hurt. Abbott also informed Emory Smallman, superintendent of the mine, and Ray Tincher, coal miner (EMT). Both men are employees of the A & B Thomas Mine #1. Tincher instructed Smallman to call the rescue squad. Emory Smallman stated that mine power had been lost minutes before Abbott returned to the mine. Legg drove his coal truck up the haulroad, followed by Tincher in the front-end loader.
After arrival at the accident site, Tincher examined Carte for vital signs and found none. Tincher instructed Legg to travel back to the mine site and telephone Michael Taylor, general manager and superintendent, and George Lockhart, a supervisor for Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., at Lansing, West Virginia, to inform them of the accident.
At 2:36 p.m., Smallman notified Redi-Care Ambulance Service of Nettie, West Virginia. They dispatched an ambulance to the accident site at 2:37 p.m. and arrived at 2:46 p.m. The paramedics administered first aid. They started CPR, without any response from the victim. At 3:00 p.m., the ambulance transported the victim to Richwood Area Medical Center in Richwood, West Virginia. The victim was pronounced dead on arrival at 3:25 p.m., by Dr. John Beard.
INVESTIGATION OF THE ACCIDENT
The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified of the accident at 2:50 p.m. on March 18, 1997, that a fatal accident had occurred. Mine Safety and Health Administration personnel began to arrive at the mine at 3:30 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 management personnel and miners from A & B Thomas, Inc.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training conducted interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident. The interviews were conducted at the Mine Safety and Health Administration's Summersville Field Office conference room at Summersville, West Virginia, on March 19, 1997, at 10:00 a.m.
The physical portion of the investigation was completed on March 19, 1997, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.
Records and interviews with the miners and management indicated that requisite training had been provided for the miners employed at this mine; however, it was revealed that neither A & B Thomas, Inc., nor Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., gave the required hazard training to the truck drivers hauling from this job site. Newly employed experienced miner training was given to all Canon employees, but this training did not include any hazard training for any specific mine site. The training provided did not address the hazards of high-voltage lines.
The first bond permitted for this mine by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources was on July 5, 1983, to West Ridge Coal Company.
WestVaco owns the mine property. Laurel Smokeless Coal Company leased the property from A & B Thomas, Inc., until March 21, 1997. On March 21, 1997, A & B Thomas, Inc., resumed responsibility and maintenance rights to the coal haulage road. A & B Thomas, Inc., owns all mineral rights to the mine property.
The underground A & B Thomas Mine #1 has changed ownership and company name three times. On March 3, 1992, Wrangler Mining Company, Inc., opened the mine and closed it on January 11, 1994. On December 29, 1994, T-He Coal Company, Inc., opened the No. 1 Mine and then closed operations on August 15, 1995.
The power company constructed part of the mine haulage road in 1965. The construction of the haulage road was for service of the power transmission lines.
The coal haulage truck involved in the accident was a 1989 Denedyne Mack truck, with a 32-foot Alfab trailer. The height of the trailer bed from the surface haulage road was 11 feet 7 3/4 inches. The average width of the haulage road was about 21 feet from the ditch line to the berm.
The victim pulled back onto the haulage road, after another truck passed him traveling in the opposite direction. The victim drove the truck about 50 feet before he decided to put the tarp over the load of coal. This placed him underneath the 23,000-volt transmission line.
The 23,000-volt transmission line was measured at its lowest point at 20 feet 1 inch, and at the accident scene, the highest point from the haulage road was 20 feet 11 inches.
A handwritten, painted sign on the haulage road at the accident scene, visible while leaving the mine, read, "Danger High-Voltage Overhead." A sign on the tarp release mechanism reads, "Danger, Watch Out for Overhead Power Lines."
The high-voltage transmission line is owned by Allegheny Power Company.
According to information received from the power company, the power transmission lines were installed sometime in 1965.
Personnel of Allegheny Power Company provided information indicating that the high-voltage transmission line was supplied from two locations at 23,000 VAC. Both supplies are protected by circuit breakers to open at 120 amperes of ground fault current. Both circuit breakers opened and then locked out on ground fault on March 18, 1997, at 2:21 p.m.
During the day of the accident, visibility was limited due to fog and a steady downpour of rain.
The tarping mechanism was manufactured by Mountain Tarp and Awning Co. located in Middlesboro, Kentucky.
The tarping device crank handle was observed lying on the bumper, on the driver's side of the truck.
The tarping device, when raised to a vertical position over the trailer, was approximately 22 feet in height from the ground.
According to interviews conducted after the accident, the truck drivers were instructed by Mike Taylor, truck manager, to tarp at the mine stockpile area, but no signs were posted. They were instructed not to tarp underneath the high-voltage transmission lines, according to the coal haulage truck drivers, Legg and Collins. Carte had the only loaded truck at the mine site that day, previous to Legg passing him to get loaded.
The victim had been hauling from this mine site approximately 1 month and 10 days prior to the accident.
The coal haulage road is approximately 0.6 of a mile long, from the mine site to the entrance of W.Va. State Route 20. The accident occurred 0.3 of a mile from the mine site.
James F. Carte, truck driver, was fatally injured when he released the truck's automatic tarping device into one phase of an overhead 23,000-volt power transmission line.
A 104(a) Citation was issued to A & B Thomas, Inc., for a violation of Title 30 CFR, Part 48.31(a), stating in part that the victim was not provided with hazard training. The victim activated his automatic tarp (mast) within 10 feet of an energized overhead high-voltage (23,000 volt) transmission line. The device contacted a power conductor of the transmission line, resulting in the fatal electrocution of the truck driver.
A 104(a) Citation was issued to Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., for a violation of Title 30 CFR, Part 48.31(a), stating in part that the victim was not provided with hazard training. The victim activated his automatic tarp (mast) within 10 feet of an energized overhead high-voltage (23,000 volt) transmission line. The device contacted a power conductor of the transmission line, resulting in the fatal electrocution of the truck driver.
A 104(a) Citation was issued to Canon Coal Haulers, Inc., for a violation of Title 30 CFR, Part 77.807-2, stating that during a fatal investigation, physical evidence revealed that the metal crossarm (mast) of the automatic tarping device installed on the 1989 Mack coal truck was operated within 10 feet of an energized overhead high-voltage (23,000 volt) transmission line. The device contacted a power conductor of the transmission line, resulting in the fatal electrocution of the truck driver.
Respectfully Submitted by,
Jerry E. Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Ernie Ross, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
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