DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
(SURFACE COAL MINE)
FATAL POWERED-HAULAGE ACCIDENT
No. 21 Surface Mine (ID No. 46-04670)
Hobet Mining, Inc.
Julian, Boone County, West Virginia
Bell Atlantic of West Virginia, Inc.
Contractor ID No. (LKW)
Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia
April 2, 1997
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 20, 1997
The No. 21 Surface mine, Hobet Mining, Inc., is located at Julian, Boone County, West Virginia. Coal is mined in coal seams of various heights in Boone and Lincoln Counties.
The mine opened in January 1974. Employment is provided for 290 employees on three production shifts and three maintenance shifts, with the mine producing coal 7 days a week. The mine produces an average of 17,500 tons of raw material daily from three to five coal loading pits.
Coal is transported from the pits via trucks to a coal dumping transfer station and then carried to the preparation plant via belt conveyor.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT
Elvin Elkins, Jr., an employee of Bell Atlantic of West Virginia, Inc., arrived and checked in at the guard house and mine entrance at 5:04 p.m. to do repair or service work to the telephone line going to the underground mine (Bar-K, Inc., Sugartree No. 1), a contract mine on this property. Bell Atlantic has several checkpoints to troubleshoot problems with telephone service on the mine property. After the problem with the telephone line was found, Elkins proceeded to repair or correct the situation. Around 7:00 p.m., another Bell Atlantic employee, James Snodgrass, called Elkins via their radio communications to offer his assistance, and proceeded to the problem area. After arriving on the site, Snodgrass observed Elkins descending a telephone pole, stating he had repaired the telephone line. Snodgrass proceeded to show Elkins other trouble spots on mine property where they have experienced problems in the past. This was Elkins' fourth time on mine property since August 1996. Snodgrass, who was driving a van, became stuck in an area with a lot of mud and, after several attempts, could not remove the van. Both proceeded in Elkins' truck to the guard shack to call a wrecker service, and Roger Green's Wrecker Service was contacted. Mike Albright, driver of the tow truck, pulled the van from the area where it was stuck. After the van was pulled out, the driver of the tow truck proceeded to leave, with Snodgrass second, and Elkins third in line. After arriving at the coal dumping location, Snodgrass noticed that Albright was about to make a turn in the wrong direction on the mine site. Snodgrass blinked his headlights to attract Albright's attention. After stopping the tow truck, Snodgrass got in front and proceeded to lead the other vehicles off mine property. After driving for a short distance, Albright noticed that Elkins' headlights appeared to be falling back a further distance. When Snodgrass and Albright reached the guard house, the security guard, Steve Justice, informed them of a truck accident. Snodgrass traveled across the access bridge and waited a few minutes for Elkins. When Elkins did not show, Snodgrass went back to the guard shack and, at that time, was told that the truck accident involved a telephone truck. Snodgrass traveled on the access road back to the accident site.
Joe Austin, an employee who works the owl shift for Hobet Mining, Inc., traveled by the wrecked truck and noticed steam coming from the engine area. He turned around and went back to the truck, where he noticed the victim lying underneath the truck. Austin checked for a pulse on the victim, but none was found. A short time later, Steve Matthews, a foreman for Hobet Mining, Inc., arrived on the scene and performed CPR on the victim until the Boone County Ambulance Authority personnel arrived and relieved him. Several employees hooked a chain to another vehicle and uprighted the overturned truck, freeing the victim. Elkins was then transported by ambulance to Boone Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
INVESTIGATION OF THE ACCIDENT
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was notified at 11:53 p.m. on April 2, 1997, that a fatal powered-haulage accident had occurred. MSHA personnel arrived at the mine at 1:15 a.m. on April 3, 1997. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners.
MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, along with the Boone County Sheriff's Department, jointly conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management and representatives of the miners of Hobet Mining, Inc., and personnel and a representative of employees of Bell Atlantic of West Virginia, Inc.
All parties were briefed by mine management personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident.
On April 3, 1997, representatives from all parties conducted the on-site portion of the investigation. Photographs were taken and relevant measurements and sketches were made of the accident site.
Interviews of individuals known to have knowledge of the facts before and after the accident were conducted at the Hobet Mining, Inc., office at Julian, Boone County, West Virginia, on April 4, 1997.
The physical portion of the investigation was completed April 4, 1997, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.
No records could be provided to indicate that hazard training had been given to Elkins in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48, and a citation was issued.
The mine record books indicated that daily examinations were conducted on the access road, and mine management personnel stated that they were done.
The truck involved in the accident was a 1-ton 1996 Ford F-350 (dual wheels), Serial No. 1FDKF37H8TE331832, with a utility bed. Both headlights on the truck worked.
Traffic rules and speed limit signs were posted along this mine access road.
The weather was clear and cool.
Left-hand drive is in effect on all roads on this Hobet Mining property. The victim was driving on the left side.
Elkins was thrown out the passenger door of the truck, and the seat belt was in a retracted position.
The seat belt was checked and in proper working condition after the accident.
The cab area contained numerous loose items which were ejected during the accident.
The cab area of the vehicle sustained minimal damage.
Testimony given indicated that prior to the accident, the victim used a seat belt at all times when operating equipment.
The Bell Atlantic van and wrecker had changed positions approximately one-half mile from the accident scene.
The mine access road was well constructed and maintained by the operator.
The roadway surface at the accident site contained loose gravel.
The roadway contained a 12.2 percent to a 1.1 percent grade at the accident site.
Illumination was provided in this area by the lights installed along the belt conveyor located next to the roadway.
The utility truck bed was approximately 2 feet higher than the cab of the truck and was full of telephone repair equipment.
Elkins' job title was cable splicer technician with Bell Atlantic of West Virginia, Inc. This was his fourth trip on mine property in the last 9 months.
Elkins had worked 7 consecutive days, for a total of 78 hours, including 15 1/2 hours on April 2, 1997.
The width of the roadway in this area was approximately 80 feet.
Berms of sufficient height were provided along the roadway for the equipment utilizing the access road.
The fatal accident occurred when the victim was descending a 12.2 to a 1.1 percent grade and, for some unknown reason, lost control of his vehicle which overturned and/or flipped, throwing him out and pinning him underneath the truck, causing fatal crushing injuries.
There were no violations of Title 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations that contributed to the accident.
Respectfully submitted by:
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
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