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District 8

(Surface Coal Mine)

Fatal Powered Haulage

Foxfire Environmental, Inc. (Contractor I.D. No. 7GM)
Kindill 1 Mine (I.D. No. 12-00330)
Spurgeon, Pike County, Indiana

October 16, 1997


Vernon Stumbo
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Wilbur Deuel
Coal Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
Post Office Box 418, 501 Busseron Street, Vincennes, Indiana 47591
James K. Oakes, District Manager


The Kindill 1 Mine, Kindill Mining, Inc., is located two miles north of Spurgeon, Pike County, Indiana, on State Highway 61. Coal is mined in coal seams of various heights in Pike and Gibson Counties.

The mine opened in 1921. The mine's parent company has changed several times since opening. Employment is provided for 168 employees on three production shifts, with the mine producing coal five days a week. The mine produces an average of 7,000 tons of raw coal daily from one coal producing pit. Coal is produced by the open pit method. Overburden is shot and then removed by a dragline. Coal is transported from the pit via bottom dump trucks to the coal preparation plant for processing.

The Foxfire Environmental, Inc., Contractor I.D. 7GM, of Jasonville, Indiana, is a private contractor employed by the Kindill 1 Mine, Kindill Mining, Inc., to collect water samples. The contractor analyzes the samples and maintains a record. They collect these samples twice monthly at the mine site.

The last regular Health and Safety Inspection (AAA) was completed on August 6, 1997. Another Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was started on October 2, 1997, and was ongoing at the time of the accident.

The principal officers at the time of the accident were:

Kindill Mining, Inc.
Jack Fowler.............................................Superintendent
Jeff Eyer...................................................Safety Director and Principal Officer-H.S.

Foxfire Environmental, Inc.
Joe Moreland...........................................Comptroller


On October 16, 1997, at approximately 6:45 a.m., Dennis Dale Smith (victim) and Joe Moreland, Field Technicians for Foxfire Environmental, Inc., arrived on mine property to collect water samples at fourteen designated locations. A Ford 4x4 pickup truck and a 4x4 All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) were used to travel to the various water sampling points. The collection of the water samples was started at the East sampling points located near the mine office. Moreland drove the ATV and Smith drove the truck to collect samples in different areas; this was a normal practice. After collecting the samples from the East sampling points, they loaded the ATV back onto the pickup truck. At approximately 8:30 a.m. Smith and Moreland traveled toward the West Field Pit area. While en route they stopped and collected two additional samples.

They arrived at the West Field Pit area and unloaded the ATV at approximately 9:00 a.m. They agreed to meet back at sampling point No. 301B after collecting the West Field samples. Smith traveled on the ATV collecting the South East samples, and Moreland drove the pickup truck collecting the North West samples. Moreland gathered samples and returned to the designated meeting point. Smith had not returned yet, but running late was not unusual for the workers due to the terrain and the location of the sampling points. Moreland traveled one mile east to collect two more samples and then returned to the designated meeting point. This took approximately twenty minutes. Smith still had not returned to the meeting point. Moreland became worried that something was wrong with Smith, or that the ATV had broken down. He traveled to various sampling points searching for Smith and checked with Tractor Operator Jim Helfrich, who was doing reclaim work nearby, to see if he had seen Smith. Helfrich told Moreland that he had not seen him. Moreland returned to the designated meeting point, parked the truck, and left a note on the truck stating, "I'm walking toward sampling point No. 313A, where I dropped you off," signed "Joe." He then traveled on foot in a zigzag pattern trying to find a trail of the ATV.

At approximately 12:00 p.m., from the top of the levee, Moreland spotted the overturned ATV along the embankment of the levee. Moreland yelled to Smith, but there was no answer. Moreland traveled closer to the ATV and observed Smith trapped underneath the vehicle. He attempted to lift the ATV but could not because the vehicle was too heavy. Moreland checked Smith for a pulse at the neck and arm but was unable to detect one. Moreland ran across the drainage ditch which was approximately 25 feet wide with water approximately four feet deep. After crossing the ditch, he ran up an old highwall bench road waving his arms to get Tractor Operator Jim Helfrich's attention who was located approximately 3/4 of a mile away from the accident site. Helfrich, realizing something was wrong, quickly engaged the tractor in high tram and started traveling toward Moreland. Moreland informed Helfrich that Smith was trapped underneath the ATV and he could not lift it off. Moreland instructed Helfrich to call 911. Helfrich, knowing his CB radio was out of transmitting range of the mine office, notified Foster Hays whose tractor was equipped with a CB and mine mobile radio, to call the mine office for help. The secretary received the call from Hays at approximately 12:28 p.m., and immediately called the Pike County Ambulance Service.

Helfrich and Moreland arrived back at the accident scene and attempted to lift the ATV off Smith, but could not. The water cooler strapped on the rear of the ATV was wedged against a tree. This prevented them from lifting the vehicle. They removed the water cooler and then managed to lift the vehicle off Smith. Helfrich rechecked Smith for a pulse, but was unable to detect one. By this time other workers, including Safety Director Jeff Eyer, arrived at the scene. Eyer started CPR but Smith did not respond. The Pike County Ambulance Service arrived at 1:00 p.m., and checked Smith's vital signs. At approximately 2:00 p.m., Gibson County Coroner, Scott Stodghill, and the Gibson County sheriff's ambulance crew arrived at the scene. The coroner examined Smith and pronounced him dead. The victim was transported by the sheriff's ambulance crew to the Vanderburgh County Morgue, Evansville, Indiana, for an autopsy.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was notified at 12:45 p.m. on October 16, 1997, that a fatal powered-haulage accident had occurred. At the time of the accident, a regular Health and Safety Inspection was in progress and an MSHA inspector was at the mine. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners. MSHA conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Pike County Sheriff's Office, the Gibson County Sheriff's Office, the Gibson County Coroner, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Kindill Mining, Inc. mine management and miner representative, and personnel from Foxfire Environmental, Inc.

On October 16, 1997, representatives from all parties conducted an onsite 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 Kindill Mining, Inc., Kindill 1 Mine, on October 17, 1997, and at Foxfire Environmental, Inc.'s office in Jasonville, Indiana on October 21, 1997.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the accident:
  1. The 4x4 All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) involved in the accident was a 1991 Polaris, Model No. W918139, Serial No. 1876919.

  2. The handle bars and brakes were functional.

  3. The ATV was not equipped with roll-over protection.

  4. The weather was clear and mild.

  5. The accident occurred in the Old West Field Pit area which was being reclaimed.

  6. A 20-quart Igloo water cooler, filled with collected water samples, was strapped to the back of the ATV.

  7. The water cooler became wedged against a tree during the accident making it difficult to upright the ATV.

  8. The manufacturer's recommended maximum safe angle of operation for the ATV is 25 degrees.

  9. The levee was covered with thick undergrowth and small trees. The inclined sides of the levee are 20 degrees from horizontal. The levee's top, north side, and south side were 7 feet wide, 24 feet wide and 15 feet wide, respectively. The accident occurred on the north side.

  10. A small rillet, approximately six inches deep by 12 inches wide and 15 feet long, existed at the accident scene on the inclined side of the levee and it was not visible due to the thick undergrowth. This rillet went down the levee at a small diagonal angle.

  11. A small locust tree on top and near the center of the levee obstructed the victim's route of travel.

  12. At the time of the accident, the victim traveled on the inclined north side of the levee and evidence suggests that he encountered the rillet while turning up the hill.

  13. Evidence indicated the the ATV was being operated at a slow rate of travel. There were no slide or skid tire marks to indicate otherwise.

  14. Smith was a contract employee with Foxfire Environmental, Inc., and his job was a field technician water-sampler. He visited the mine twice monthly to collect environmental water samples.

  15. There were no eye witnesses of the accident.

  16. The victim had approximately seven years of experience operating this ATV.


The ATV was being operated on a 20-degree slope with the additional weight of collected water samples in a cooler strapped to the back. The accident and resulting fatal injury occurred while the victim was attempting to bypass a tree that obstructed his passage on top of the levee. Evidence suggests that as he was traveling around the tree on the inclined side of the levee, the ATV became unstable and overturned when the ATV encountered a rillet that was not noticeable because of the undergrowth.


  1. A 103 (K) Order No. 7561198 was issued to insure the safety of any person in the area until an investigation could be made.

  2. There were no violations of Title 30, C.F.R. observed during the investigation that would have caused or contributed to the accident.

Respectfully submitted:

Vernon Stumbo
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Wilbur Deuel
Coal Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Approved by:

David L. Whitcomb
Assistant District Manager

James K. Oakes
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB97C27