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District 7

Accident Investigation Report
(Surface Coal Mine)

Fatal Slip/Fall of Person Accident

Hance Seam Mine(ID: 15-17792)
C.T.&L. Coal Company
Hulen, Bell County, Kentucky

September 6, 2000


Arthur V. Smith
CMS&H Inspector (Surface)

Originating Office - Mine Safety & Health Administration
Coal Mine Safety and Health
HC 66, Box 1699, Barbourville, KY 40906
Joseph W. Pavlovich, District Manager


On September 23, 2000, Leroy Lawson, a 56 year old bulldozer operator with 37 total years of mining experience, died as a result of injuries sustained in an earlier slip/fall accident.

The accident occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m., on Wednesday, September 6, 2000, at the 001 Pit of the C.T.&L. Coal Company's Hance Seam Mine, located near Hulen, Bell County, Kentucky. Lawson received injuries to his cervical spine after he fell from the running board of a Model D-355-3 Komatsu bulldozer. Immediately following the accident, Lawson was transported to the Harlan Appalachian Hospital and subsequently to the University of Kentucky Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries. He was released on September 10, 2000, and returned to his home.

Lawson's condition began to deteriorate on September 23, 2000, while at home. He was again transported by ambulance to the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital where he succumbed to complications resulting from his earlier injuries and was pronounced dead at 3:48 p.m. the same day.

The victim slipped/fell from the running board of the bulldozer after exiting the operator's compartment. According to his own statement, obtained earlier by representatives of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals (KDMM), he lost his balance before the fall.


The Hance Seam Mine, located at Hulen, Bell County, Kentucky, is operated by the C.T.&L. Coal Company. The mine employs ten persons and is operated utilizing surface contour methods and augering. The Hance Coal Seam is mined, which underlies the surface in three separate layers, totaling 84 inches in thickness. Overburden is removed utilizing front end loaders which load the excavated material onto Euclid rock trucks, which then haul the material to reclamation areas. Bulldozers assist in both the mining and reclamation processes.

The mine produces 175 tons of coal, one shift per day, from one open pit and one coal auger 6 days per week. There is no separate maintenance shift, maintenance being done during the production shift. Coal is loaded onto trucks with a front end loader and transported from the mine.

The Principal Officers of the operation are as follows:
Robert G. Hunley .......... Owner
Larry Spade .......... Foreman
The last Mine Safety and Health (MSHA) regular safety and health inspection (AAA) was completed on June 5, 2000.


The day shift began at 7:00 am, as scheduled, on September 6, 2000. After arriving at the mine, each miner examined his/her respective equipment and began normal operations.

Operations that morning primarily centered on hauling spoil material from the pit and redistributing it along the haul road, in order to raise the haul road's surface. Leroy Lawson, victim, was operating a D355-3 Komatsu bulldozer along the haul road and was engaged in spreading the material dumped by the trucks. During that period, coal became available for loading, which required the use of the front end loader which had been supplying material to the rock trucks. This resulted in Lawson's bulldozer becoming temporarily idle due to a lack of material. While Lawson waited in his operator's compartment, Shawn Taylor, water truck driver, parked his vehicle near the rear of Lawson's bulldozer, dismounted and walked over to speak with him.

According to Taylor, Lawson stepped backwards out of the operator's compartment and onto the running board to speak with him. As Lawson turned toward Taylor, he lost his balance, and fell, head-first, to the ground, striking his head. Taylor stated that as he saw Lawson falling, he reached out in an attempt to catch him, but failed. Observing Lawson's injury, Taylor immediately summoned help via the CB radio located in the bulldozer.

Foreman Larry Spade, also an EMT, immediately responded to Taylor's call, bringing first aid equipment with him. According to their statements, Lawson was responsive and both Spade and Taylor spoke with him. Spade next placed a neck brace on Lawson and transported him to Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital, located in nearby Harlan, Kentucky. At the hospital, Lawson was provided with a superior neck brace and was subsequently flown by helicopter to the University of Kentucky Medical Center (UKMC), in Lexington, Kentucky where he was reportedly treated for a fractured cervical spine. On September 10, 2000, Lawson was released from UKMC and returned to his home. While at home, on September 22, 2000, Lawson was interviewed by Investigators Jim Owens and Davin Hoskins of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. Owens and Hoskins reported to MSHA investigators that Lawson seemed well and was both alert and mobile during his interview.

On September 23, 2000, Lawson's condition began to deteriorate rapidly. Once again, he was transported by ambulance to Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital. Lawson succumbed to complications resulting from his earlier injuries and was pronounced dead at 3:48 p.m.


An initial investigation of the accident was conducted on September 7, 2000, by Roger Dingess, Coal Mine Inspector(CMI), and Jim Langley, Supervisory Coal Mine Inspector (SCMI), both of MSHA's Barbourville, Kentucky office. Preliminary information was gathered and the accident scene inspected.

On September 25, 2000, MSHA's Barbourville Office, was notified of Lawson's death by Larry Spade, Mine Foreman. An Accident Investigation Team, consisting of Arthur V. Smith, CMI and Accident Investigator of the Barborville office, and Daniel L. Johnson, SCMI, of the Harlan office, was dispatched to the mine to reopen the investigation. KDMM was also notified and a joint investigation was conducted with the assistance of mine management and employees. Formal interviews were conducted with Foreman Larry Spade and with eye witness, Shawn Taylor, water truck driver. Neither of the two stated that they desired to make a confidential statement.

As earlier reported, KDMM Investigators, Jim Owens and Davin Hoskins had interviewed the victim at his home on September 22, 2000. According to Owens and Hoskins, the victim stated, "I lost my balance and fell."


The following physical factors were determined to be relevant to the occurrence of the accident:

1. The accident occurred on the surface of 001 Pit, C.T.&L. Coal Co., Hance Seam Mine, MSHA ID #15-17792.

2. The victim was operating a Komatsu Model D-355-3 bulldozer.

3. The victim had been employed at this mine site for only two days. He began employment on September 4, 2000.

4. Measurements taken indicated that the vertical distance from the running board of the bulldozer to the ground was 72 inches.

5. There was no rain or heavy dew on the day of the accident so as to cause the equipment's surfaces to be wet.

6. The Komatsu Model D-355-3 bulldozer was provided with handrails. The running board's surface was found to be free of defects.


The victim slipped/fell from the running board of the Komatsu Model D-355-3 bulldozer after he exited the operator's compartment. According to his own statement, obtained by state investigators on September 22, 2000, he lost his balance before the fall.


No violations, determined to be contributory to the accident, were found during the course of the investigation.

A non-contributory violation was observed, and a citation issued, during MSHA's initial investigation of the accident on September 7, 2000. No training records were available for inspection at the mine site, to indicate whether Lawson had received the requisite newly- employed experienced miner training. This citation was not considered to be contributory to this accident because the records were made available at a later date and revealed that Lawson, had, in fact, received the required training.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:


List of Persons Providing Information And/or Present During the Investigation:

C.T.& L Coal Company Officials
Larry Spade .......... Foreman
C.T.& L Coal Company Employees
Shawn Taylor .......... Laborer - Water Truck Driver
Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals
Jim Owens .......... Safety Analyst/Investigator
Davin Hoskins .......... Safety Analyst/Investigator
David Disney .......... Supervisor
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Roger Dingess .......... Coal Mine Inspector
Jim Langley .......... Supervisory CMI
Dan Johnson .......... Supervisory CMI
Arthur V. Smith .......... Coal Mine Inspector (Surface)