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District 2

(Underground Coal Mine)

Fatal Fall of Rib Accident

Maple Creek Mine (ID No. 36-00970)
Maple Creek Mining Inc.
Bentleyville, Washington County, Pennsylvania

July 1, 1997


Thomas G. Todd
Mining Engineer

Charles W. Pogue
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Roof Control)

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
New Stanton District Office
RR 1, Box 736, Hunker, Pennsylvania 15639
Joseph J. Garcia, District Manager


Maple Creek Mine, operated by Maple Creek Mining Inc., is located near Bentleyville, Washington County, Pennsylvania. The mine is opened by two shafts, one slope, and one drift into the Pittsburgh coal seam which averages 84 inches in thickness. Employment is provided for 211 persons underground and three persons on the surface. The mine produces coal three shifts per day six days per week. Maintenance and support work are performed on the seventh day on all three shifts.

One longwall section and two continuous-mining machine sections produce an average of 7,500 raw tons daily. Coal is transported from the face areas to the section loading point by a chain conveyor on the longwall section and by shuttle cars on the continuous-mining sections. Coal is then discharged onto a series of belt conveyors and transported to a surface preparation plant.

The principal officers of the operation are as follows:
Robert E. Murray..............................President
Maynard St. John..............................Manager of Operations
Roy Heidelbach................................Mine Superintendent

The last Mine Safety and Health (MSHA) regular Safety and Health Inspection at this mine was completed June 30, 1997.


On Tuesday, July 1, 1997, George Kundrat, Jr., and Robert Rebovich, belt repairmen, along with Larry Diess, beltman, received their work assignments on the surface from Wilbur Guile, belt support foreman. They were to travel to the 9 Flat Right 2 West area of the mine and continue setup of the 2 West belt transfer point under the direct supervision of Martin Rancosky, maintenance foreman. At approximately 12:05 a.m., the crew of workers entered the mine at Spinner Shaft and traveled to their assigned work area.

After arriving at the work area, Rebovich began welding on the left side of the belt transfer frame under the supervision of Rancosky. Diess and Kundrat were burning holes for bolts on the right side of the transfer frame and cutting sections of roof bolts to be welded onto the transfer frame. After a period of time, the men switched sides with Rebovich and Rancosky welding on the right side and Diess and Kundrat cutting on the left side. At approximately 5:00 a.m., the four men decided to take a break for lunch.

At about 5:25 a.m., Rebovich and Rancosky returned to the belt transfer area and resumed working while the others finished their lunch. Rebovich got the torch and knelt down to start cutting roof bolts on the left side of the belt transfer. As Rancosky turned to get more roof bolts, he heard Rebovich light the torch. Rancosky began to walk away when he heard a loud noise. He turned, looked back, but could not see Rebovich. Rancosky yelled for Rebovich and ran back to the belt transfer point where he saw a large piece of material had fallen from the rib area. He could only see the left hip of Rebovich protruding out from under the fallen material. Rancosky called for help. Daniel Kramer, roof bolter, was working on an overcast one crosscut inby the belt transfer area when he heard a loud noise and then Rancosky yelling for help.

Kramer ran to the belt transfer area and told Rancosky to get help as he attempted to free Rebovich.

Rancosky returned to the accident site along with Donald Biena, continuous-miner operator, Ronald Wesolowsky, roof bolter and Ronald Keslar, construction foreman. The fallen rib material had broken into two large pieces when it landed. Using a block and tackle and a chain hoist, each anchored to the mine roof, the miners lifted the material off of Rebovich. Due to the severity of the injuries, first-aid was not attempted. Rebovich was placed on a stretcher and carried to the track entry where he was transported out of the mine.

They arrived on the surface with Rebovich at 6:45 a.m. where he was pronounced dead by Washington County Coroner Timothy Warco. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force trauma.


MSHA was notified at about 5:45 a.m. on July 1, 1997, that a serious accident had occurred. The MSHA accident investigation team was assembled and arrived at the mine at about 8:00 a.m. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until an investigation could be conducted.

MSHA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection jointly conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management personnel, miners and representatives of the miners.


  1. The 9 Flat Right Mains, consisting of five entries, two intakes, belt, track and return, was developed by the former operator, U.S. Steel Mining Co., in 1987. The 2 West longwall development section, driven directly off the 9 Flat Right Mains in June of 1997, consists of three entries: the return, intake, and belt. The accident occurred in the 9 Flat Right - 2 West belt transfer area.

  2. The original height of the coal seam in the belt transfer area measured 96 inches including a nine-inch rock binder approximately 5 feet above the mine floor. During the first week in June 1997, an additional 36 to 42 inches of rock and wild coal was mined to provide the necessary height for construction of the belt transfer area. The total height of the belt transfer area varied from approximately 132 to 138 inches.

  3. The material that fell from the left rib consisted of rock binder: coal and rock intermixed with wild coals. The material measured 10 feet in length, 2 feet thick, and from 30 to 42 inches in width.

  4. The mine roof in the belt transfer area is supported with 8-foot, 3/4 inch diameter tension grouted roof bolts installed on a minimum 4-foot by 4-foot centers in conjunction with 20-inch header boards.

  5. A preshift examination of the belt transfer area was conducted by Clark Morris, section foreman, for the midnight shift, between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. on June 30, 1997. An onshift examination of the belt transfer area was conducted by Keslar at approximately 1:40 a.m. on July 1, 1997. Miners and foremen were working in the belt transfer area during the entire midnight shift. There were no hazards observed during the shift or examinations prior to the accident.

  6. Statements of co-workers and foremen indicated that there were no visible signs of roof or rib abnormalities or deterioration detected or observed in the area that fell. The workers described the rib as having been vertical, with no overhanging brow.


The accident occurred when a large piece of material dislodged without warning from the left coal rib in the 2 West belt transfer area. The material struck the victim, Robert Rebovich, from behind, resulting in his death from multiple blunt force trauma.

A contributory factor to the accident may have been the mining height created by the removal of approximately 36 to 42 inches of additional material above the coal seam.


  1. A 103(k) Order, No. 3954237, was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until an investigation could be conducted.

  2. There were no violations observed that contributed to the accident.

Respectfully submitted by:

Thomas G. Todd
Mining Engineer

Charles W. Pogue
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Roof Control)

Approved by:

Joseph J. Garcia
District Manager--Coal Mine
Safety and Health District 2

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB97C15