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District 6

(Surface Preparation Facility - Contractor)


Long Fork Preparation Plant (I.D. No. 15-16958)
McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation-Operator
Dotson Trucking Company, Inc.-Contractor I.D. HD2
Kimper, Pike County, Kentucky

September 1, 1998


Buster Stewart
Accident Investigator

Robert H. Bellamy
Mining Engineer

Dennis Ferlich
Mechanical Engineer

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


The McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation, Long Fork Preparation Plant is located one mile up Long Fork of Johns Creek, Pike County, Kentucky, off State Route 632. The preparation plant processes approximately 11,000 tons of raw coal daily.

The principal officers are:

James D. Dotson...............................President and Chief Operating Officer

Randall K. Taylor..............................Vice President of Operations

William Spears...................................Safety Director

The preparation plant began operating under the present MSHA I.D. number on October 1, 1990. Thirteen employees work on two-twelve hour shifts. Coal is normally processed five days per week.

Dotson Trucking Company, Inc., Contractor I.D. HD2, is an independent contractor employed to haul the coarse refuse from the storage bin to the refuse site.

The principal officers are:

Andy Maynard..............................President

Tommy Bevins, Jr.........................Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer

Twelve persons are employed by Dotson Trucking Company, Inc., on two shifts per day. The refuse is transported from the storage bin located near the preparation plant to the refuse site by 50-ton Cline tandem trucks.

All major repairs on haul trucks are performed by contractors. Routine maintenance is performed on-site by mechanics employed by Dotson Trucking Company, Inc.

A Safety and Health inspection was in progress at the time of the accident.


On September 1, 1998, the second shift crew for Dotson Trucking Company, Inc. started their shift at 2:00 p.m. Shift-change out for truck drivers is done at the refuse bin where the Cline 50-ton trucks are loaded. Four trucks are normally required to haul the refuse from the preparation plant. The haulroad to the top of the refuse area is approximately 3/4 of a mile with an uphill grade ranging from 9% (near the refuse bin) to 19% (in the vicinity of the accident). There are six switchbacks (steep curves) which are referred to by number when the truck drivers communicate their positions by CB radio, starting with #1 at the bottom and increasing to #6 at the top. A bulldozer is used to level and compact the refuse in place after it is dumped.

The day shift had ended without incident when Dan Kirk, driver of Truck No. 77, changed out with Charlie Hall (victim) on Truck No. 77. The second shift proceeded as usual with Hall leaving the plant area to haul his first load to the dumping point at the active refuse area.

Preceding Hall was Rickie Smith, truck driver, who was in communication with Hall on the CB radio during the trip to the refuse area. Smith told Hall that he had spun his wheels going through Curve No. 1 up the hill and Hall replied that he knew, that he had spun there also. Hall also mentioned to Smith that he had a vibration in his truck and he intended to get the mechanic to check it out after he dumped and returned to the plant area where the trucks are normally repaired.

James Williamson, truck driver, had completed one round trip and had started back to the refuse area with a load when he observed Hall's truck in Curve #1 with the front end out of sight over the road berm and the back end extending up in the air. Williamson attempted to contact Hall by CB radio from his truck but got no response. He then called for the other drivers for help. Williamson and William New, mechanic, arrived at the accident scene simultaneously. They found Hall located in a ditch between the hillside and the outslope of the haulroad, on his hands and knees, and was asking for someone to help him. New sent Williamson to get an ambulance.

Dennis Flagg, Plant Operator for McCoy Elkhorn, was monitoring the CB radio, and contacted the Plant Superintendent, Gary Thacker, who phoned for an ambulance. Thacker and Clarence Reed, Mine Emergency Technician, then rode to the scene. When they arrived, New was talking to Hall. New asked Hall what had happened and Hall replied that he did not know. New and Reed began treating Hall for head injuries. Joe Justice, who is an Emergency Medical Technician, arrived at approximately 2:55 p.m. and began stabilizing Hall. Hall lost consciousness after being placed on a stretcher. The Phelps Ambulance Service arrived at approximately 3:15 p.m. Hall was transported by ambulance to the Pikeville Methodist Hospital. He was later transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital.

William Spears, Safety Director, for McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation, called the MSHA Phelps Field Office and notified Mike Wolford, CMS&H Inspector, of the accident at 3:30 p.m. He also reported the accident to the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals.

Hall's major injuries included a broken vertebrae and head injuries requiring surgery for swelling of the brain. He remained in critical condition at Cabell Huntington Hospital until September 13, 1998, at which time he expired.


MSHA Inspector Mike Wolford contacted W.R. Compton, Assistant District Manager-Enforcement, who dispatched Jimmy Brown, CMS&H Inspector (Surface) to the scene. Brown arrived at approximately 5:30 p.m. that evening and issued a 103(k) Order of Withdrawal to both the production operator (McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation) and the contractor (Dotson Trucking Company, Inc.). A preliminary examination of the accident site was made by Brown and an MSHA accident investigation team arrived at approximately 8:00 p.m. It was determined that personnel from MSHA's Technical Support would be needed for assistance in examining the truck for safety defects which may have contributed to the accident. The site was further examined, videotaped, and photographed on September 2, 1998. Dennis Ferlich and Terry Marshall, mechanical engineers from Technical Support, arrived on September 3, 1998, and began the examination of the truck. Dotson Trucking Company, Inc. provided assistance to the Technical Support personnel as needed until the examination of the truck was completed on September 5, 1998.


The investigation revealed the following relevant physical factors:

  1. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.

  2. The truck (Unit #77) involved in the accident is a 1977 Cline, Model No. 250. Although there was no serial number found in the operator's compartment, the number 266010 was found on the frame in the area of the right front wheel well. The truck is a 10-wheel tandem.

  3. The truck left the roadway, crossed the berm, and traveled over the outslope into the side drainage ditch, and impacted the hillside.

  4. lThe surface of the refuse haul road at the accident site consisted of firmly embedded limestone rock. Much of the stone was worn slick from the tractive forces of the haul trucks.

  5. The road was wet from water running out of the beds of the refuse trucks. Employees stated at least two of the trucks, including Hall's, had spun in Curve #1 on the way up.

  6. The grade of the haulroad was approximately 19% leading into Curve #1 from the direction of travel according to mapping provided by McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation.

  7. A thorough examination of the truck was conducted by MSHA Technical Support personnel. Defects in the braking system were found which could have contributed to the truck going into a skid on the slick road surface upon application of the service brakes. The front wheel brakes were inoperative, the brake for the left rear drive axle was defective, and the braking force generated by the right rear drive axle brake was virtually nonexistent. The road condition (wet and slick) and the braking force concentrated on the remaining operative brakes, increased the truck's tendency to go into a skid.

  8. During operational tests of the hydraulic retarder, the retarder linkage return spring was found to be stretched (plastic deformation)resulting in the retarder occasionally sticking in the "on" position when released. Unintended residual application of the hydraulic retarder on the slick road surface would also increase the tendency for the truck to go into a slide upon application of the remaining operative service brakes. It must be noted that road surface friction tests conducted by Goodrich Company and published in the Marks Mechanical Engineering Handbook reveal significant (approximately 50%)reduction in road surface friction with speed increase from 5 to 30 mph. With regard to this accident, excessive operating speed for the existing road conditions would have been the primary contributing factor to the truck going into a slide, although, the defective brakes and sticking retarder would have a tendency to aggravate the situation. It could not be determined if Hall used the retarder during the return trip traveling empty. During interviews, the other drivers said that they used their retarders.

  9. The truck contacted the berm at a near perpendicular angle due to the radius of the curve. Although the berm was substantially constructed, the truck crossed it rather than being deflected.

  10. During an examination of the accident site, the windshield was found in the ditch on the left side of the truck. Glass particles were embedded in a small tree in front of the cab indicating the windshield came out in the forward direction, then landed in the ditch. The control switches located on the front dashboard panel were bent upward and to the left and a small piece of cloth later identified as part of the victim's shirt was hanging from the left side windshield wiper arm. This indicated the victim had been thrown through the windshield opening.

  11. The Cline truck was not provided with a rollover protective structure (ROPS). A seat belt was provided but was not in use at the time of the accident.


The accident occurred because the truck was apparently being operated at a speed that was not consistent and prudent with the conditions of the roadway (slick and steep) in the area of the accident. The truck had been used during the previous shift under the same conditions without incident. The condition of the brakes on the truck likely contributed to the truck's skidding down the inclined roadway surface.


A 103(k) order, Number 4490796, was issued on September 1, 1998, to McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation to ensure the safety of the miners working in the area.

A 103(k) order, Number 4490797, was issued on September 1, 1998, to Dotson Trucking Company, Inc., (contractor) to ensure the safety of the miners working in the area.

A 104(a) Citation, Number 7351483, was issued on September 10, 1998, to McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation for a violation of 30 CFR, Section 77.1607(c). The equipment operating speeds were not consistent with the conditions of the roadway, grade, and type of equipment being used.

A 104(a) Citation, Number 7351484, was issued on September 10, 1998, to Dotson Trucking Company, Inc. for a violation of 30 CFR, Section 77.1607(c). The equipment operating speeds were not consistent with the conditions of the roadway, grade, and type of equipment being used.

A 104(a) Citation, Number 7350320, was issued on September 24, 1998, to McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation for a violation of 30 CFR 77.1605(b). The brakes on the Cline refuse truck #77 were not adequate.

A 104(a) Citation , Number 3816166, was issued on September 24, 1998, to Dotson Trucking Company, Inc. for a violation of 30 CFR 77.1605(b). The brakes on the Cline refuse truck #77 were not adequate.


Buster Stewart
Accident Investigator

Robert H. Bellamy
Mining Engineer

Dennis Ferlich
Mechanical Engineer

Approved By:

Carl E. Boone, II
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98C21