DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
SURFACE COAL MINE
FATAL FALL OF HIGHWALL
Stony Point Mine (I.D. No. 15-18080)
No. 1 Contractor, Inc.
Dalton, Hopkins County, Kentucky
January 7, 1999
Coal Mine Inspector
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 YMCA Drive, Madisonville, Kentucky 42431-9019
Rexford Music, District Manager
The No. 1 Contractor, Inc.'s Stony Point Mine is located 4.7 miles west of intersection 291 and Stony Point Road, in Hopkins County, Kentucky. The mine entered operational status August 1998 and consisted of one pit where coal is extracted from both the Kentucky #11 and #13 coal seams. The mining process involves drilling holes, insertion and detonation of explosives, removal of overburden and removal of coal from the Kentucky #13 seam. The process is then repeated to recover coal from the Kentucky #11 seam which is located approximately 20 ft. beneath the Kentucky #13 seam. The combined coal seams are approximately 10 feet in height.
Mine Equipment & Mill Supply Company of Dawson Springs, Kentucky, is contracted by No. 1 Contractor, Inc., to insert the explosives into the drill holes and detonate said explosives. Wright Trucking Company of Clay, Ky., is contracted by No. 1 Contracting, Inc., to transport coal from the mine site.
The Stony Point Mine employs 20 miners. The company utilizes two production crews (a day shift and night shift) which work nine hour shifts, with service crews on both shifts working ten hour shifts. Maintenance is conducted as scheduled and needed. The mine normally operates six days a week, producing an average of 1,500 tons of coal daily.
The last complete health and safety (AAA) inspection of the mine conducted by the Mine Safety Health Administration was completed on September 30, 1998. The current health and safety inspection was started on October 8, 1998, and was on going at the time of the accident.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On Thursday, January 7, 1999, at approximately 5:00 a.m., the day shift crew consisting of thirteen employees, entered the mine area for the regularly scheduled production shift. Christopher Rickard, dayshift foreman, assigned the employees their duties and transported men to the various equipment, which was located out of the pit area. Rickard then entered the pit and conducted an on-shift examination of highwall and pit area. The pit and the highwall were deemed to be safe at that time.
Jonathan Miller, bulldozer operator, began to build a road across the parting shot between the Kentucky #13 and Kentucky #11, that had been shot on January 6, 1999, to allow access for Alan Hargis to tram the RRC-45S Robbins highwall drill to the work-site. After the highwall drill was trammed into the work area, the dozer operator and drill operator discussed over the two-way radio what would be the best way to work this area while the bulldozer operator cleaned up and moved material from the area to prepare for the drilling, at this time, Hargis trammed the highwall drill to approximately 5 feet from the base of the highwall.
The orientation of the drill was perpendicular to the highwall face with the cab position near the highwall. Drilling operations started with the first hole being drilled in the pattern directly under the highwall. At approximately 6:30 a.m., while finishing the first hole, Hargis contacted Bulldozer Operator Miller, by way of two-way radio, and stated that he (Hargis) "was fixin to get covered up." At that time, Miller was located approximately 30 feet from the end of the highwall drill. Miller stopped his bulldozer, looked in the direction of the highwall and saw rock falling from the highwall directly above the drill. Large pieces of sandstone fell from the highwall causing severe damage to the drill and operator's compartment. Miller attempted to alert Hargis by two-way radio; however, there was no response. Miller contacted Foreman Rickard and told him that the highwall had fallen onto the drill. Miller, used the bulldozer he was operating to push the drill away from the highwall and removed some material near the operator's cab.
Rickard contacted Kenneth Taylor Jr., superintendent, Mike Rice, warehouse man, notified the appropriate medical and rescue personnel along with MSHA and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. Rickard entered the pit and observed that the operator's cab had been severely damaged by the rock. Due to the size of the fall, Rickard was unable to reach the operator's cab and called Hargis' name with no response.
Timmy Tapp and Ricky Stevens, front-end operators, were working in the east end of pit approximately 200 feet from the highwall drill when the fall occurred. Tapp and Stevens, along with Donny Walker, backhoe operator, proceeded to the accident area to assist with recovery.
At approximately 6:50 a.m., Rice called 911 for assistance. The Dawson Springs Rescue Squad from Dawson Springs, Kentucky, and Regional Medical Ambulance Service from Madisonville, Kentucky, were dispatched to the scene. Company personnel attempted to rescue the victim using equipment on mine property. At approximately 7:15 a.m., the ambulance and rescue crews arrived and utilized the jaws of life to remove the victim. James Mathews, Hopkins County Deputy Coroner, examined Hargis for vital signs. None were found and the coroner pronounced Hargis dead. The victim was recovered at approximately 8:30 a.m. and transported from the mine site by the ambulance service to the Regional Medical Center in Madisonville, Kentucky.
On January 7, 1999, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Mike Rice, warehouse man, telephoned MSHA's Madisonville District Office and informed Phil DeHart, Roof Control Supervisor, of the accident. MSHA accident investigators were dispatched to the accident scene. A joint investigation with Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals began at approximately 8:50 a.m..
A 103 (k) order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners. The area was photographed, sketched, and pertinent measurements were taken. Preliminary data about the victim was obtained and a schedule of interviewing was established. Interviews of three miners, two company employees, and one explosive company employee (contractor) were conducted on January 8 and 11, 1999.
During the course of the investigation, assistance was requested of MSHA's Pittsburgh Safety & Health Technology Center (PSHTC), who provided technical and engineering expertise during evaluation of the geology of the highwall.
Records indicated that Alan Hargis had not received Newly Employed Experienced Miners training, when he began his employment at the Stony Point Mine. A citation was issued for a violation of 30 CFR, Part 48.26.
PHYSICAL FACTORS INVOLVED
The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the
occurrence of the accident:
- The highwall is made up of sandstone with shale
lamination and shale. The highwall was approximately 60
ft. in height.
- The victim was operating a 1986 Robbins Drill Model
RRC-45S (Serial # RC40015-25) located 5 feet away from
the base of the highwall at the time of the accident.
- On the day of the accident the weather was cold and
snowing with temperatures 18� F with a wind chill of 8�
F. The day before the temperatures reached into the
40's allowing thawing before freezing overnight with
the cold front that came through on January 6, 1999.
- There was one eyewitness to the material falling from
the highwall. The witness was located within 30 feet of
the Robbins drill when he saw large sections of upper
sand rock topple (rotated top first) onto the drill.
- The orientation of the highwall drill at the time of
the accident placed the operator's compartment next to
the highwall. The cab of the highwall drill is an
environmental cab, and was not designed for falling
- Each miner interviewed stated that company policy was
to position the operator's cab of the highwall drill
opposite the highwall. According to testimony, it was
not a practice for the victim to operate the drill with
the operators cab adjacent to the highwall.
- A hand-held spot light was used to illuminate the
highwall face during the on-shift examination. No
effort was made to examine the ground above the
highwall on that day. It was still dark when accident
occurred at 6:30 a.m.
- Available USGS Geologic Quadrangle maps suggest that
significant faults run through this area. Based on
available coordinates, the mine lies between two
faults, the Shady Grove and the Stony Point fault
- The death certificate list the cause of death as massive injuries to the head and chest.
Based on the information obtain through the investigation, the accident occurred due to the presence of an open joint fault in the sandstone strata, combined with possible destabilizing forces caused by freezing and thawing. The hazard to the drill operator was exacerbated by the position of the drill which placed him next to the highwall and increased the victim's exposure to hazardous highwall conditions.
- A 103 (k) Order (No. 7637352) was issued on January 7, 1999,
to No. 1 Contractor, Inc., Stony Point Mine to ensure the
safety of the miners working in the area until the
investigation was complete.
- A 104(a) Citation (No. 7637352) was issued on January 7,
1999, to No. 1 Contractor, Inc., Stony Point Mine for a
violation of 30 CFR, Part 77.1004(b). Unsafe ground
conditions were not corrected promptly, or the area posted.
- A 104(a) Citation (No. 7638104) was issued on January 21, 1999, to No. 1 Contractor, Inc., Stony Point Mine for a violation of 30 CFR, Part 48.26 (a). The victim had not received the Newly Employed Experienced Miners training for the Stony Point Mine.
Coal Mine Inspector
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