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District 4

Accident Investigation Report
Underground Coal Mine

Fatal Powered-haulage Accident
Lightning Contract Services, Inc. (I.D. No. 8CV) Coalfield Enterprises, Inc. (I.D. No. JBT) Joes Branch #1 (I.D. No. 46-08662) Copperas Coal Corporation New Richmond, Wyoming County, West Virginia

March 12, 1999


Jerry Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ronald Medina
Mechanical Engineer, Mine Equipment Branch
Approval and Certification Center

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road,
Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Edwin P. Brady, District Manager


The Copperas Coal Corporation's Joes Branch #1 mine is located near New Richmond, Wyoming County, West Virginia. The mine was opened by five drifts into the Pocahontas #6 coal bed which averages 46 inches in thickness. The mine began production on September 11, 1997, and produces an average of 1,660 tons of coal daily from one super section utilizing two mechanized-mining units (MMU) and is ventilated with two splits of air. Coal is transported from the super section to the surface via belt conveyors. The immediate roof is comprised of shale and sandstone. Primary roof support is provided by 42-inch resin bolts. Supplemental supports consisting of posts, cribs, and combination bolts are also used. Ventilation is inducted into the mine by an Industrial Welding 6-foot blowing fan which produces approximately 111,440 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm). This mine does not liberate any detectable amounts of methane, according to the results of the latest air samples collected by MSHA. Personnel and supplies are transported by a battery-powered, track-mounted vehicle to the mouth of the working section and then by rubber-tired, battery-powered vehicles to the working section. Coal is extracted with continuous miners on both the 001-0 and 002-0 MMUs.

The principal officials of Copperas Coal Corporation are:
Gary D. Spurlock ......... President
Bill Harless ......... Safety Consultant
Coalfield Enterprises, Inc., Contractor ID No. JBT, provides management personnel for coal companies, including Copperas Coal Corporation. The principal officials of Coalfield Enterprises are:
Barry Elliott ......... President
Mark McClure ......... Executive Vice President
Gary Burns ......... Secretary
Gary D. Spurlock ......... Treasurer
Lightning Contract Services, Inc., Contractor ID No. 8CV, employs approximately 180 employees and provides labor for coal companies. Thirty-six of their employees are contracted to Copperas Coal Corporation. The principal officials of Lightning Contract Services, Inc., are:
Gary D. Spurlock ......... President
Gary Burns ......... Equal Share Holder
Mark McClure ......... Equal Share Holder
The last Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regular safety and health inspection (AAA) was completed on February 18, 1999.


On Friday, March 12, 1999, the evening shift crew, consisting of twelve (12) miners, entered the mine at 3:30 p.m., under the supervision of Aubrey Hartman, Jr., section foreman. When the crew arrived on the working section, some of the them began mining on the left side of the section and the others began mining on the right side of the section. James Cochran, Jr. stated that he began hauling coal from the No. 9 entry working face using the No. 3 shuttle car. After completing the mining cycle in the No. 9 entry, the continuous miner was trammed to the No. 10 face where Cochran could not operate the No. 3 shuttle car because it did not have enough trailing cable to reach the face.

According to statements given by Cochran, he began to operate the No. 2 shuttle car in the No. 10 entry working face. Hartman stated that during this time he was in various locations across the working section checking on work being performed by the rest of the section crew. Hartman stated that they had difficulty mining in the No. 6 entry crosscut because some of the roof was falling out as it was being mined. Hartman stated that shuttle cars were having difficulty traveling to and from the section's loading point because of bottom conditions. During this time, John Bailey, Jr. (victim) operated the No. 4 shuttle car on the left side of the section. After he trailing cable for the No. 3 shuttle car was moved and re-anchored, Cochran began operating it again.

Bailey returned to operating the No. 2 shuttle car in the No. 9 entry after hydraulic oil was added.

Mining continued in the No. 9 entry working face with Bailey operating the No. 2 shuttle car and Cochran operating the No. 3 shuttle car. After mining was completed in the No. 9 entry, mining continued in the No. 10 entry with Cochran and Bailey operating the shuttle cars. Approximately 11:15 p.m., Cochran stated that he observed Bailey leaving the section loading point traveling towards the No. 8 entry. Cochran was parked at the No. 8 crosscut waiting for Bailey to pass him to clear the loading point. Cochran stated that Bailey made a left-hand turn in the No. 8 entry, when he struck the right side coal rib with the No. 2 shuttle car. Cochran stated that Bailey was leaning out of the operator's deck and was caught between the coal rib and the No. 2 shuttle car which continued to tram forward for a short distance pulling Bailey from the operator's deck.

Cochran then ran to the No. 2 shuttle car to check on the condition of Bailey who was lying on the mine floor groaning. After de-energizing the No. 2 shuttle car, Cochran, an EMT, shouted to the other crew members to tell them of the accident and then he began to administer first-aid. Hartman, who was at the Joy continuous miner on the left side of the section, heard Cochran shouting and went to the accident scene where he directed other crew members to get the first-aid box and call outside for an ambulance.

Bailey was placed on a stretcher and transported to the end of the track by a battery-powered mantrip. Discovering that the track mantrip was gone, Bailey was placed on another battery- operated, rubber-tired mantrip and transported part of the way outside. The mantrip on which Bailey was being transported experienced mechanical problems and quit running. Bailey was then placed on another battery-powered mantrip and transported to within eight crosscuts from the surface, where this mantrip quit running and the victim was carried to the surface on a stretcher. Transporting the victim to the outside took approximately 45 minutes. Jan-Care Ambulance Service transported him to Raleigh General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. by Dr. McClain.


MSHA was notified at 12:56 a.m., on March 13, 1999, that a fatal accident had occurred. MSHA personnel were dispatched and arrived at the mine at approximately 2:30 a.m. A 103(k) order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners. A joint investigation by MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training was initiated on March 13, 1999. A representative of the miners did not participate in the investigation because no representative was designated.

All parties were briefed by mine personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. A preliminary discussion was held with four representatives from management concerning the powered-haulage accident. The inspection party then traveled to the accident scene where a thorough examination was conducted. Photographs, video, and relevant measurements were taken and sketches were made of the accident scene. Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted in the conference room at the MSHA Pineville field office on March 17, 1999, beginning at 8:55 a.m.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed on March 22, 1999, and the 103(k) order was terminated.



Records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48. An examination of Bailey's training records revealed that he had received all required training and had a total of 22 years mining experience.

Physical Factors

1. The Joy 21SC end-drive Shuttle Car, designated as No. 2, which was being operated by the victim, was supplied with 480 volts AC three-phase power. The manufacturer's certified canopy had been contacting the mine roof and was removed approximately two weeks prior to the accident. The shuttle car was being operated without a canopy at the time of the accident. The canopy was found outby the section and appeared to have torn welds and damage.

2. The mining height at the accident scene in No. 8 entry inby survey station No. 1593 was 52 inches and the width of the entry was 19 ft. 8 inches. In addition, a 4/0 three-phase continuous-miner trailing cable was laying on the floor parallel with the No. 8 entry, approximately 16 ft. 8 inches from the right rib. The position of the cable required the victim to make a wider turn when tramming into the crosscut to avoid running over it.

3. The No. 2 shuttle car's steering system had excessive free play which could cause sudden unexpected movement of the shuttle car toward the rib as it was being trammed. This condition would very likely require constant steering corrections to complete turns and to maintain straight travel. When the shuttle car was elevated and placed on blocks so that all four tires were off of the ground, it was possible to manually grasp any of the tires and change its direction of travel by 7 degrees. For example, if the tire adjacent to the operator's compartment was oriented using the steering wheel, so that the shuttle car would be traveling in a straight line forward, one could grasp the tire and redirect it so that it was pointing 7 degrees to the right. The mechanical linkage was such that when this was done, the tire on the other side of the axle was reoriented by the same amount. The total steering movement from when the tire is in the straight position to when it is pointing to the full right position is 22-1/2 degrees, according to Joy Manufacturing specifications. The free play therefore exceeded one fourth of the total steering movement. When tramming, the weight of the machine would put an increased load on the tire and likely increase the amount of free play.

4. The tram pedal linkage on the No. 2 shuttle car was out of adjustment and the pedal would not center. In addition, loose and compacted coal had accumulated around the tram and brake linkage in the operator's compartment. Even after the accumulated coal was removed, tram pedal operation was erratic. At times the pedal could be fully depressed and the shuttle car would fail to tram, and at other times the shuttle car would tram normally when the tram pedal was depressed.

5. The No. 2 Joy 21SC Shuttle Car was manufactured in 1978 and the steering wheel was connected to an orbitrol valve.

6. The No. 2 Joy 21SC Shuttle Car is provided with upright seating, positioned ahead of the boom-end wheel units, where maximum vertical displacement occurs when experiencing shuttle car haulage road irregularities. The No. 2 shuttle car was placed in service on February 19, 1999, according to mine records, and had not been examined for hazardous conditions since that date. No records of any examinations were found for this shuttle car.

7. The right rib at the accident scene was undercut approximately 23 inches at the maximum point as a result of the No. 2 shuttle car's cable reel support structure repeatedly impacting the rib. Other locations observed on the section where the ribs were undercut were approximately 14 places inby the loading point, and 16 places in the next two rows of pillars outby the loading point.

8. The shuttle car was empty at the time of the accident.

9. The free play in the steering system was caused by several factors. The mounting bolts connecting an upper steering arm to the planetary half of the corresponding wheel unit had become loose. This wheel unit was located on the opposite corner of the shuttle car from the operator's compartment. In addition, observation of the steering linkage movement indicated the likelihood that wear in the cross shaft splines and the steering lever carrier bearing also contributed to the steering free play, along with wear and looseness in the outby pivot axle assembly. Other worn steering linkage connections may also have been a factor in causing the free play.

10. It was noted that the steering wheel had to be turned 180 degrees (one half of a turn of the steering wheel) before the tires started to move. This steering wheel free play was a result of the mechanical factors previously noted, along with possible wear in the hydraulic steering components such as the orbitrol valve.

11. The service braking system utilized two Joy dry disc brakes. Testing revealed that the service brake had the capability to quickly stop and hold the shuttle car. Both brake discs were clean and shiny on both sides. These tests were conducted with the shuttle car empty to duplicate the conditions at the time of the accident.

12. The emergency parking brake system consisted of the spring applied sections of the Joy brake calipers along with a brake control system manufactured by CLA, Inc. CLA components included a brake tender valve, a charging valve, and a pilot valve. After the accident, witnesses reported that the machine was still energized, indicating that the panic bar had not been actuated; therefore, the emergency parking brake had not been applied. Tests performed during the investigation indicated that the emergency parking brake engaged immediately when the panic bar was actuated and could stop and hold the shuttle car at the location where the accident occurred. The brake tests were conducted with the shuttle car empty to duplicate the conditions at the time of the accident. The emergency parking brake pad to disc clearances were measured and found to exceed the maximum clearance specified by Joy Manufacturing for both brake pads on the operator's side caliper and on one side of the other caliper. The pad to disc clearances that were found to be out of tolerance ranged from 0.080 to 0.090 inches. The maximum clearance specified by Joy before the brakes need readjustment is 0.045 inches. Moreover, the CLA charging valve did not consistently supply sufficient brake release pressure. This could cause the brake pads to drag against the disc which would quickly wear them out and cause the brake disc to become hot. Finally, the gauge in the operator's compartment monitoring the brake release pressure did not function. Despite these deficiencies, the emergency parking brake did apply immediately when the panic bar was actuated and could stop and hold the empty shuttle car.

13. The Main Section is a developing section 4,650 feet inby the mine portal.

14. Rolling coal seam conditions are present throughout the mine.

15. Mining height varies from 44 inches to 81 inches across the working section.


The fatal accident occurred because the No. 2 Joy 21SC Shuttle Car operated by the victim was not maintained in a safe operating condition. The combined effect of the mechanical problems affecting the steering system and erratic pedal operation made the shuttle car difficult to control and operate safely. In addition, the required canopy which would have protected the operator was not provided on the shuttle car.


A 103(k) order No. 7162092 was issued. A fatal powered-haulage accident occurred on the 001 section of the Joes Branch #1, Copperas Coal Corp. The persons specifically designated as part of the investigation team by MSHA and allowed to enter the mine and/or area of the accident were as follows: representatives of the company, representatives of the State, and representatives of MSHA.

A 104(d)(2) order No. 7160532, Section 75.512, Title 30 CFR, was issued, stating in part, that the Joy 21SC Shuttle Car, serial No. ET13919, being operated on the 001 and 002 super section had not been frequently examined, tested, and properly maintained by a qualified person to ensure its safe operating condition. Records of the weekly electrical equipment tests and examinations indicated that on February 19, 1999, the shuttle car was placed in service and as of the date the accident occurred no other required entries of examinations or tests were conducted and recorded. The shuttle car had been placed in service and used for two weeks prior to the accident which occurred on March 12, 1999. This has been determined to be one of the contributing factors to the accident.

A 104(d)(2) order No.7160533, Section 75.1710, Title 30 CFR, was issued, stating in part, that during the accident investigation it was revealed that the No. 2 Joy 21SC Shuttle Car, Model number 21SC-56BKKE-1, Serial Number ET13919, being operated on the 001 and 002 MMU super section was not provided with a substantially constructed canopy to protect the shuttle-car operators. Actual measurements of the mining height on the section range from 42.5 inches to 80 inches. Management decided to remove the No. 2 shuttle car when it contacted the mine roof while being operated. This was determined to be a contributing factor to the fatal accident.

A 104(d)(2) order No.7160534, Section 75.1725, Title 30 CFR, was issued, stating in part that during the accident investigation it was revealed that the No. 2 shuttle car, serial number ET13919 being operated on the 001-0 and 002-0 MMU super section by the victim, was not maintained in a safe operating condition. There were large accumulations of compacted and loose materials in and around the tram pedal and brake pedal, including the linkage that operates these pedals inside the operator's deck. The steering contained an excessive amount of play due in part to the fact that the upper steering arm bolts were loose. It was determined that the steering wheel had at least 180 degree turning ratio before the wheels on the shuttle car would start to turn in the right direction. Lack of steering control was considered one of the contributing factors causing the fatal accident.

Respectfully submitted by:

Jerry Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ronald Medina
Mechanical Engineer

Approved by:

Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager

Edwin P. Brady
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:

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