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Coal Mine Safety and Health

District 3

Accident Investigation Report
(Underground Coal Mine)

Fatal Fall of Roof Accident

Whitetail Mine (I.D. No. 46-08285)
Coastal Coal-West Virginia, LLC
Kingwood, Preston County, West Virginia

December 17, 1999


William L. Sperry
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Electrical)

Charles J. Thomas
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ronald L. Wyatt
Mining Engineer

Paul L. Tyrna, Mining Engineer
Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center

Joseph A. Zelanko, Mining Engineer
Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center

Originating Office-Mine Safety and Health Administration
5012 Mountaineer Mall, Morgantown, West Virginia 26501
Timothy J. Thompson, District Manager


On December 17, 1999, at approximately 1:15 p.m., Gary L. Rodeheaver, Remote Control Continuous Mining Machine Operator, was fatally injured when he was struck by an unsupported rock brow which fell from the left rib measuring 5.5 feet long by 3 feet wide by 1.3 feet thick. The victim was recovered and brought to the surface where he was pronounced deceased at 2:18 p.m. by an attending physician. Subsequently, Mr. Rodeheaver was transported to Preston Memorial Hospital in Kingwood, West Virginia. The accident site had been previously roof bolted on an approximately 4-foot by 4-foot pattern with a maximum distance of 4 feet from the outside bolt to the rib.


Coastal Coal-West Virginia, LLC, Whitetail Mine, I.D. No. 46-08285, is located near Kingwood, Preston County, West Virginia. The mine is accessed by two shafts and a slope into the Upper Freeport coal seam. The coal seam ranges from 48 to 60 inches in thickness and the maximum overburden on the mine is 600 feet. The total mining height at the accident site was approximately 82 inches.

Employment is provided for 124 underground and 8 surface employees. The mine is operated two shifts per day, seven days per week, producing 5,400 tons of raw coal per day from three continuous mining machine units. Coal is transported from the face to section loading points by shuttle cars. The coal is then transported from the section loading points to the surface by a belt conveyor system. A track haulage system is used to transport supplies, materials, equipment and employees into and out of the mine.

Ventilation of the mine is provided by a main mine fan exhausting a total of 360,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The mine liberates approximately 259,653 cubic feet of methane per day. During development, face areas are ventilated using blowing line curtain and continuous mining machines equipped with scrubbers.

The Roof Control Plan in effect at the time of the accident was approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration on July 10, 1999. The immediate mine roof consists of gray shale and sandstone with intermittent siltstone and carbonaceous shale deposits. The approved roof control plan specifies that fully grouted resin bolts, a minimum length of 48 inches, be installed on a 4-foot wide by 4�-foot long pattern.

The principal officers for the Whitetail Mine at the time of the accident were:
Vice President James F. Daugherty
General Mine Superintendent Steven B. Polce
Safety Manager Russell J. Riley
A MSHA Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was ongoing at the time of the accident. The previous Safety and Health Inspection was completed on September 30, 1999.

The Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) incident rate during the previous quarter was 4.84 for underground mines nationwide and 8.25 for this mine.


On Friday, December 17, 1999, at approximately 6:00 a.m., the second shift crew of seven men, under the supervision of James Jones, Section Foreman, entered the mine via the slope and traveled to the Sub-Mains No. 4 Panel to produce coal. At the working section, the roof control plan was reviewed and job assignments were made. Melvin Dunithan and Brad Belanger, Roof Bolting Machine Operators, traveled to the number 5 entry and began operating a twin head Fletcher roof bolting machine. Kevin Kelley, Section Mechanic, repaired a broken conveyor chain on the continuous mining machine in the number 1 entry and proceeded to perform maintenance on two battery scoops, located outby the section belt feeder.

Gary L. Rodeheaver, Continuous Mining Machine Operator (victim), and James Wright, Keith Teter, and Thomas Teter, Shuttle Car Operators, mined and loaded coal with the remote controlled Joy 14-CM continuous mining machine starting in the crosscut driven from entry number 2 toward entry number 1 at 30 Block. During the initial mining sequence in the number 2 entry, a rock brow was left on each side of the entry, approximately 30-34 feet inby the 30 Block. The right brow was pulled down by the right side roof-bolting machine operator during the bolting cycle. Attempts were made, to pull down the left brow, but the left brow could not be pried down. This brow was left unsupported at this time.

The shift continued normally until after lunch. Rodeheaver resumed operation of the continuous mining machine and mined approximately 20 feet of the left side of number 2 entry and 30 feet on the right side of the same entry. At approximately 1:05 p.m., the section belt ceased operating. Jones had completed an on-shift examination of the section when he noticed the shuttle cars were not traveling the haulroad. Jones then proceeded to the section belt conveyor tailpiece in number 5 entry to investigate. Wright had already notified Steven Polce, General Mine Superintendent, by phone that the belts were not operating. A motorman was dispatched to restart the belts. The section belt conveyor resumed operation at approximately 1:17 p.m. Dunithan and Belanger had completed bolting to the face of number 1 entry and trammed the roof bolting machine to the crosscut driven from entry number 2 toward entry number 1 at 30 Block. They then waited for completion of the mining in the number 2 entry.

When the conveyor belts resumed operation, Wright was the first shuttle car operator to return to the number 2 entry. The continuous mining machine was parked approximately 38 feet outby the working face. Upon arrival at the continuous mining machine, Wright noticed that the continuous mining machine was idle. He got out of his shuttle car and found Rodeheaver underneath a large rock, by the left side of the continuous mining machine. The rock measured approximately 5.5 feet long by 3 feet wide by 1.3 feet thick. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.

Rodeheaver was located between the left rib and the continuous mining machine in a sitting position with the rock forcing his face toward his chest. The remote control box was located between his chest and legs. Wright attempted to move the large rock, but was unsuccessful. He then summoned help from the roof bolting machine operators located in the crosscut driven from entry number 2 toward entry number 1 just outby the accident site. Wright, Belanger, and Dunithan were still unable to move the rock. Belanger went to the section tailpiece to get additional help. Belanger informed James Jones, Tom Teter and Keith Teter about the accident. Keith Teter contacted Steven Polce who then instructed Mark Savage, Outside Laborer to call 911.

Pry bars were obtained from the roof bolting machine and the continuous mining machine. Jones, Keith Teter, Tom Teter, and Wright lifted the rock with two pry bars while Dunithan pulled Rodeheaver from beneath the rock. Doug Currence, Utility Man (Emergency Medical Technician), arrived at the scene and checked Rodeheaver for vital signs. Rodeheaver was loaded onto a backboard and was transported from the face area on a rubber tired mantrip to the track mounted personnel carrier. He was then transported to the surface where Health Net and Preston County emergency personnel were waiting. No vital signs were detected and Rodeheaver was pronounced deceased at 2:18 p.m. by the Health Net Physician. The victim was then transported by Preston County EMS to Preston Memorial Hospital in Kingwood, West Virginia.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was notified at 1:27 p.m. on December 17, 1999, that a serious accident had occurred. MSHA accident investigators were notified and dispatched to the mine. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until the accident investigation could be completed. The investigation was conducted in cooperation with the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training (WVMHST) with the assistance of the operator and their employees. A list of those persons who participated in the investigation can be found in Appendix A of this report.

A pre-investigation conference was conducted by MSHA personnel upon arrival at the Whitetail Mine at 4:39 p.m. Preliminary interviews with persons who had knowledge of the accident were conducted in the conference room at the mine office. Representatives of MSHA, WVMHST, and the operator then traveled to the underground accident scene to secure the area. A thorough investigation of existing physical conditions on the working section was conducted by the investigating team members. A geological evaluation of the accident site and the working section was conducted by engineers from MSHA. Photographs, video recording, and relevant measurements were taken. Sketches and a survey were also conducted at the accident site.

Follow-up interviews were conducted with persons who had knowledge of the accident on December 18, 1999, in the conference room of the mine office. The investigation also included a review of training records and the records of other required examinations. The physical portion of the investigation was completed on December 20, 1999, and the 103(k) order was terminated.


A review of the training records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48. Examination records indicated that the required examinations were being conducted and recorded in accordance with 30 CFR Part 75.

The accident occurred on the Sub-Mains No. 4 Panel section (MMU 001-0). Nine entries were being developed on 50-foot centers with crosscuts on 50-foot centers. Entries were approximately 18 feet wide.

The approved roof-control plan specifies fully grouted resin roof bolts with a minimum length of 48 inches to be used at this mine. The mine roof in the area where the accident occurred, as well as other areas on the section, was supported with 60-inch number 6 bar and 72-inch number 6 bar, fully grouted resin roof bolts with 6-inch by 16-inch bearing plates as the primary roof support. Roof bolts were installed on approximately four feet crosswise and four feet lengthwise spacing. The approved plan allows 4� feet between rows of bolts. Significant pillar deterioration was not noted on the section. A Joy 14-CM remote control continuous mining machine was utilized. The approved roof control plan permitted a maximum cut depth of 40 feet to be taken in four lifts. At the time of the accident, the "A" run had been mined 20 feet and the "B" run had been mined a distance of 30 feet inby the last row of roof bolts.

An on-shift examination of the Sub-Mains No. 4 Panel section was made between 12:33 p.m. and 12:54 p.m. The crew had mined one cut from the number 1 entry and was preparing for completion of a second cut in number 2 entry when the accident occurred. The number 2 entry had been advanced approximately 50 feet during the shift on which the accident occurred. The accident occurred approximately 22 to 24 feet inby the last open crosscut. The remote control continuous mining machine had been backed approximately 39 feet outby the face of the number 2 entry. The victim, the continuous mining machine operator, was positioned between the mining machine and the left rib.

The last contact with the victim, prior to the accident was made by the section foreman and shuttle car operators.

At the accident site, the entry height was approximately 82 inches. The 14 to 16 inches of roof rock being mined above the Upper Freeport coal seam, consisted of a thinly laminated to medium, irregularly bedded, gray to black sandy shale. The texture of the rock was characterized by numerous, closely spaced, highly polished and often intersecting slickensides that tended to form breakage surfaces. Other planes of weakness were formed by occasional thin, to very thin, fossiliferous and carbonaceous interbedded shales. The rock that struck the victim was composed of gray sandy shale, measured approximately 5.5 feet by 3 feet by 1.3 feet thick, and weighed approximately 1,500 pounds. The upper surface of the rock was formed by a thin, subhorizontal, highly fossiliferrous bedding plane and an intersecting slickenside (Refer to Appendix C). Overburden was estimated to be 200 feet at the accident site.

The rock brow fell from between the ribside row of roof bolts and the left rib. The plates on two ribside bolts immediately adjacent to the brow extended to within 26 to 31 inches of the rib. Two pronounced parallel, subvertical joints, 6 to 8 inches apart, were observed on the left rib at the accident site. One of these joint surfaces coincided with the outby end of the fallen rock.


The accident occurred because a rock brow that had been neither supported or taken down, fell striking the victim. The area had been previously supported in accordance with the approved roof-control plan. However, additional support was not installed to protect the miner from the hazards related to falls of the unsupported rock brow.


1. A 103(k), Order No. 7087522, was issued to ensure the safety of all persons in the mine until an investigation was completed and all areas and equipment were deemed safe.

2. A 104(a), Citation No. 7143059, was issued citing 30 CFR 75.202(a). The roof, face, and ribs, of areas where persons work or travel, were not supported or otherwise controlled. An unsupported rock, measuring approximately 5.5 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 1.3 feet thick, fell from the roof at a location approximately 50 feet outby the face, in the number 2 entry at 30 Block, of the Sub-Mains No. 4 Panel (MMU 001-0). The rock struck and caused fatal injuries to Gary Lynn Rodeheaver. Roof bolts had been installed in the entry; however, neither additional support had been installed to prevent the rock from falling nor had the rock been taken down.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin: FAB99C32

Appendix A

Listed below are the persons furnishing information and/or present during the investigation:

Coastal Coal-West Virginia, Inc. Officials
James F. Daugherty ................... Vice President
Steven B. Polce ................... General Mine Superintendent
Max Burgoyne ................... Mine Foreman
Harvey Glotfelty ................... Maintenance Foreman
James W. Jones ................... Section Foreman
Russell J. Riley ................... Safety Manager
Charles J. Crooks ................... Attorney (Representing Coastal Coal)
Whitetail Mine Employees
Brad Belanger ................... Roof Bolting Machine Operator
Doug Currence ................... Utility Man / EMT
Melvin Dunithan ................... Roof Bolting Machine Operator
Gary Everly ................... Supply Motorman
Keith Teter ................... Shuttle Car Operator
Thomas Teter ................... Shuttle Car Operator
James Wright ................... Shuttle Car Operator
West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training
Terry Farley ................... Office of the Director
Roger Powell ................... Inspector-At-Large
John Larry ................... Assistant Inspector-At-Large
Dave Barlow ................... District Inspector
Brian Mills ................... District Inspector
James Whetsell ................... District Inspector
Benny Comer ................... Electrical Inspector
Al Kirtchartz ................... Electrical Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Monte L. Christo ................... Arlington Headquarters, Safety Division
William L. Sperry ................... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Electrical)
Charles J. Thomas ................... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Paul L. Tyrna ................... Mining Engineer, Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center
Ronald L. Wyatt ................... Mining Engineer
Joseph C. Zelanko ................... Mining Engineer, Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center