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District 6



MINE #9 (I.D. No. 15-17299)

JUNE 11, 1998




Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Ratliff Creek Road, Pikeville, Kentucky 41501
Carl E. Boone, II, District Manager


On Thursday, June 11, 1998, a 36 year-old continuous miner operator was using a remote controlled continuous mining machine to mine the second cut of a crosscut from the No. 1 entry to the No. 2 entry. After mining a distance of approximately 29.5 feet, the width of the continuous miner (twelve feet and eight inches), the operator parked the continuous miner and proceeded on foot inby the last row of roof supports to check centers. He had traveled approximately one foot inby the last row of roof bolts when a rock measuring seven feet long, six feet wide, and one to four inches thick fell on him causing fatal injuries.


Mine #9 of Branham & Baker Underground Corp., is located off U.S. 23, near Dorton, in Pike County, Kentucky. The principal company officer is Donn Chickering, President.

The mine consists of one mechanized mining unit (003 section). The 003 section is developed into the Hazard #4 coal seam which has an average mining height of 82 inches, and is located approximately 800 feet underground from the drift portals. Seals separate the active area of the mine from other extensive areas of mining in this seam. A continuous mining machine is used to extract the coal. Shuttle cars are used for coal haulage to an underground feeder. Coal is then transported to the surface by a belt conveyor.

The mine currently employs 38 persons, on two production shifts, and one maintenance shift and normally operates five days-per-week, producing an average of 1,100 tons of coal per day.

The last complete health and safety inspection of the mine by the Mine Safety and Health Administration was completed on March 12, 1998.


On Thursday, June 11, 1998, at approximately 2:30 p.m., the second shift crew entered the mine for the regularly scheduled production shift. A total of ten miners walked approximately 800 feet to the 003 working section and began their assigned duties. Clinton Eugene Rowe, continuous miner operator; Charles N. Williams, continuous miner helper (normally a shuttle car operator); David W. Griffith, shuttle car operator; and Johnny E. Ramey, shuttle car operator, began coal production in the No. 3 entry. Upon completion of mining in the No. 3 entry, Rowe trammed the Joy 12 CM radio-remote controlled continuous miner to the No. 2 entry and cut coal from the face. After mining was finished in the No. 2 entry, the miner was trammed to the No. 1 entry. Curtis Caudill, section foreman, had been in the faces observing the continuous miner and roof bolter. Caudill proceeded to the No. 1 entry when a rock became stuck in the section feeder. Caudill left the No. 1 entry, where Rowe and Williams were preparing to cut a crosscut from the No. 1 entry into the No. 2 entry, and traveled to the feeder. Caudill remained at the feeder to observe its operation after freeing the rock. At approximately 4:44 p.m., Rowe and Williams had mined the No. 1 right crosscut, approximately 29.5 feet and cut into the No. 2 entry. Upon cutting into the No. 2 entry, both Rowe and Williams noticed a curtain hanging in the No. 2 entry. Williams mentioned to Rowe that it looked like they had mined "off centers" between the two entries. Rowe told Williams he didn't think he had cut "off centers" that bad. Rowe backed the continuous miner out of the crosscut. Rowe parked the continuous miner and, with Williams following behind him, proceeded on foot inby the last row of roof bolts to check centers. When he had traveled approximately one foot inby the last row of roof bolts, a rock measuring seven feet long, six feet wide, and one to four inches thick fell on Rowe. Williams tried to lift the rock off of Rowe, but the rock was too heavy. Williams called to David Griffith who was at his shuttle car approximately one break outby the No. 1 right crosscut. Griffith started yelling for help and telling the other men on the section that a man was down. Nathan Rose, beltman called outside at approximately 4:59 p.m., to get an ambulance sent to the scene.

The crew traveled to the accident scene to free Rowe. Williams, Caudill, and Roland Mullins, roof bolter operator, lifted the rock while Ramey and Danny Slone, roof bolter operator, pulled Rowe from underneath it. Caudill administer first-aid to Rowe. Rowe had a weak pulse and serious physical injuries. The men loaded Rowe onto a battery-operated man-trip and proceeded toward the surface. Approximately 120 feet from the surface, Caudill was unable to get a pulse from Rowe and attempted to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but was unable to due to extreme chest injuries Rowe had sustained. Ambulance and fire department personnel, who had arrived at the mine, could find no vital signs from Rowe. Pike County Coroner, Charles Morris, was contacted and subsequently arrived at the mine site where he pronounced Rowe dead at 6:00 p.m.

Company personnel informed MSHA and Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals (KDMM) of the accident. MSHA and KDMM personnel were dispatched to the mine to begin an investigation.


An investigation of the accident began at approximately 7:50 p.m., June 11, 1998. MSHA personnel traveled to the mine site and met with mine officials and officials of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. A joint investigation team traveled to the accident scene to determine the cause of the accident and evaluate possible safety hazards that might exist relevant to the accident. A 103(k) order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners and allow MSHA personnel to conduct an investigation of the accident scene. The area was photographed, sketched, pertinent measurements were taken, and a review of the accident details according to the eyewitness were reviewed. Preliminary data about the victim was obtained and a schedule for interviewing the section crew was set up for the following day, June 12, 1998. Seven miners and two members of company management were interviewed during the investigation.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence of the accident:

  1. Charles Williams, continuous miner helper, was an eyewitness to the accident.

  2. The immediate mine roof is made up of laminated shale and sandstone rock.

  3. Forty-eight inch resin-type roof bolts are used on this section in conjunction with eight-inch by eight-inch roof-bolt plates.

  4. This mine does not have a history of adverse roof conditions.

  5. The rock fall began 12 inches inby the last row of roof bolts installed in the crosscut between the No. 1 and No. 2 entries.

  6. The rock measured approximately seven feet long, six feet wide, and from one to four inches thick.

  7. The victim had been operating a Joy 12 CM radio-remote continuous mining machine just prior to the accident.

  8. The approved roof control plan was not being followed. The crosscut was mined out of sequence by cutting the right side of the crosscut first. Coal had been mined in the No. 3 and then No. 2 entries earlier in the shift using the approved mining sequence in the approved roof control plan.

  9. The victim had traveled inby permanent roof support.

  10. The victim had all training required by 30 CFR, Part 48, at the time of the accident.

  11. Information obtained during the investigation revealed that the long cut taken by the operator and the failure to follow the roof control plan were not contributory to the cause of the occurrence of the accident.

  12. Each miner interviewed stated that the company policy for traveling inby permanent roof supports was dismissal from the company.

  13. According to testimony, no other incident of a miner traveling beyond permanent roof supports had occurred at this mine.


The accident occurred as the victim traveled approximately one foot inby the last row of roof bolts. A rock measuring seven feet long, six feet wide, and one to four inches thick fell on the victim causing fatal injuries.


  1. A 103(k) Order (No. 4007306) was issued on June 11, 1998, to Branham & Baker Underground Corp., Mine #9, to ensure the safety of the miners working in the area.

  2. A 104(a) Citation (No. 7351122) was issued on June 15, 1998, to Branham & Baker Underground Corp., Mine #9, for violating 30 CFR, Part 75.202(b). A victim traveled beyond permanent roof supports.


Mark V. Bartley
Electrical Engineer

Larry Little
Roof Control Specialist


Carl E. Boone, II
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98C13