DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
SURFACE COAL MINE
FATAL FALL OF PERSON ACCIDENT
December 9, 2000
A. C. Blevins Trucking, Inc. (TFY)
Coeburn, Wise County, Virginia
Pinnacle Resources, L.L.C.
Sawmill Hollow # 1 (I.D. 44-06544)
Roda, Wise County, Virginia
Charles E. Upchurch
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
P.O. Box 560, Wise County Plaza, Norton, Virginia 24273
Ray McKinney, District Manager
RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2001
On Saturday, December 9, 2000, James Kyle Hale began hauling coal at 5:10 a.m. from Nehemiah Coal Company, Inc.'s, No. 1 mine, which is an underground mine. The tandem coal truck operated by Hale was owned by Alfred C. Blevins, operator of A. C. Blevins Trucking, Inc. Hale delivered the coal to a load-out facility approximately 21 miles from the mine. After dumping the coal, Hale drove the truck to Pinnacle Resources, L.L.C., Sawmill Hollow # 1, a surface coal mine, to haul coal from this operation. The truck was loaded by David Shelton, Coal Loader, operating a Caterpillar 980G endloader. Hale delivered the coal to the load-out facility, and returned for another load. After placing the last bucket-load of coal in the truck bed, Shelton contacted Hale by CB radio. He informed Hale there was rock mixed in with the last bucket-load, and that he could transport the coal to the washing facility. Hale decided to transport the coal to the load-out facility, where slate pickers were employed. He stopped the truck at a wide area in the access road approximately 2 miles away from the mine. He informed other incoming truck drivers by CB radio that he was stopping to level ("kick down") his load and they could pass him at this location. Truck Driver Charles Hubbard observed Hale on top of the loaded truck bed near the front as he passed the truck. Hale apparently began to throw pieces of rock out of the truck bed. At some point, he lost his balance and fell approximately 10 feet from the top of the truck bed onto the roadway, suffering fatal head injuries.
The accident occurred because Hale was performing work from an elevated position without wearing a safety belt and a safety line, or other means to prevent him from falling.
Pinnacle Resources, L.L.C., Sawmill Hollow # 1 mine is located 5 miles north of Appalachia, Wise County, at Roda, Virginia. Coal production began on December 1, 2000. Coal from the surface mine is hauled by contract truck carriers. The coal truck haulage route includes approximately 2.7 miles of mine access road, with the remaining being state maintained highways. Employment is provided for 7 persons working 2 shifts per day and 5 to 6 days a week. Approximately 500 tons of coal are produced per week.
The principal officers in charge of the mine at the time of the accident were:
Operating Manager .......... Charles D. LittonThe mailing address is P.O. Box 585, Pennington Gap, Virginia, 24277.
Operating Manager .......... John Meyers
The mine became active on October 5, 2000. A regular Safety and Health inspection had not been conducted at this mine at the time of the accident.
The latest National Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) incidence rate for surface mines is 2.35. The latest NFDL incidence for the mine is 0.
A. C. Blevins Trucking, Inc., located in Coeburn, Wise County, Virginia, is contracted to transport a portion of the coal produced at this operation to the load-out facility. One truck driver was assigned to this operation on December 9, 2000. A. C. Blevins Trucking, Inc. employed a total of 6 persons, and was operating 4 coal trucks at the time of the accident.
The principal officers in charge of the trucking company at the time of the accident were:
President .......... Alfred C. BlevinsThe mailing address is Route 2, Box 209 A, Coeburn, Virginia, 24230.
Secretary/Treasurer .......... Vicki Blevins
DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT
On Saturday December 9, 2000, Truck Driver James Kyle Hale began hauling coal at 5:10 a.m. from Nehemiah Coal Company, Inc.'s, No. 1 mine located in Roda, Wise County, Virginia. The Autocar (Model DC64B) tandem coal truck operated by Hale was owned by A. C. Blevins Trucking, Inc., located in Coeburn, Wise County, Virginia. Hale transported the coal to a load-out facility approximately 21 miles from the mine. After dumping the coal, Hale proceeded to Pinnacle Resources, L.L.C., Sawmill Hollow # 1 mine, also in Roda, Virginia, to continue his work shift by hauling coal from this location to the load-out facility. The truck was loaded at this mine by Coal Loader David Shelton, operating a Caterpillar 980G endloader. As the second truck load was being completed, Shelton observed some pieces of shale rock mixed in with the coal as the last bucket-load was dumped into the bed. One piece of the rock was positioned vertically, extending approximately 18 inches above the truck bed. Shelton pushed it down into the coal with the loader bucket, leaving approximately 6 to 8 inches above the bed. He informed Hale by CB radio of the rock pieces present in the last bucket-load of coal. Shelton told Hale that he could take the coal to the washer facility. After a discussion, and considering that someone was available at the load-out to remove the rocks, Hale decided to transport the coal to the load-out facility.
Hale left the loading area, and parked the truck approximately 2 miles from the mine on the access road. He informed a group of incoming truck drivers by CB radio that he would be parked out of the way while they passed and would be leveling his load. As Truck Driver Charles Hubbard passed by, he observed Hale on top of the truck bed near the front of the truck at approximately 10:40 a.m. Hale apparently began throwing pieces of rock out of the truck from the top of the coal. Evidence observed at scene indicated that he had attempted to dislodge the protruding rock from the coal and became unbalanced, falling backward from the truck.
At approximately 11:00 a.m., Welder Helper Shelby Lynn Porch approached Hale's location while traveling toward the mine transporting supplies. He observed Hale lying face down on the road at the right rear of the truck. Porch approached Hale, and observed that Hale had received injuries to his head and was unresponsive. Porch got back into his truck and began calling for help on the CB radio. He traveled back toward the mine road entrance to try to obtain assistance. Porch met Roger Shortt installing a road sign and asked for help. After a discussion, Shortt said he would go to the mouth of the hollow and direct the emergency vehicles to the scene of the accident. Porch used his cellular phone to call 911 for emergency services. He returned to the accident scene and entered Hale's truck, which was still idling. He changed the CB radio channel from 13, used on the roadway, to channel 2 used at Sawmill Hollow # 1 mine, and continued to call for help. He stopped the truck engine and awaited help. Personnel at the mine and truck drivers heard the calls for help. Operating Manager Charles D. Litton and Welder Vernon Porch responded to the scene with a first aid kit. Litton checked Hale for pulse and breathing and found no signs of life.
The Wise County 911 system dispatcher notified the Appalachia Rescue Squad at 11:11 a.m., and they arrived at the scene at 11:36 a.m. No signs of life were detected. The State Medical Examiner, Doctor Oxley, located in Roanoke, Virginia, was notified for permission to move the victim. Rescue Squad personnel Mike Varner, Captain, assisted by Carlos Bush, Jr., recovered the body and departed the scene at 2:53 p.m. The ambulance arrived at Wellmont Lonesome Pine Hospital at 3:15 p.m., where the victim was pronounced dead by Doctor Michael B. Ford due to massive and severe head injuries.
INVESTIGATION OF THE ACCIDENT
At approximately 11:47 a.m., on December 9, 2000, Wise County Sheriff's office personnel reported the accident to Larry A. Coeburn, Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector, at his home. Wayland M. Jessee, Assistant District Manager, Inspection Division, and Roy D. Davidson, Electrical Engineer, arrived at the accident scene at approximately 2:00 p.m. Preliminary information concerning the accident was gathered, and a 103-k order was issued to preserve the scene, and for the safety of persons participating in the investigation. The accident scene was observed, photographed, and preliminary measurements for a sketch were taken. The coal truck was allowed to be moved to another location in order to clear the roadway. Company officials were informed that the investigation would continue on December 11, 2000.
MSHA resumed the investigation on December 11, 2000, at approximately 8:30 a.m. MSHA officials met with Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) officials at the DMME office in Big Stone Gap, Virginia before traveling to the accident site. During this meeting, DMME officials indicated they may not have jurisdiction where the accident occurred. DMME participated in the investigation, and the accident site was inspected and additional measurements and photographs were taken. The vehicle was inspected for required safety features and safe operation, including automatic tarping mechanism. Training records were inspected.
Interviews were conducted on December 11, 2000, at the DMME office. Four persons were interviewed, including the owner of A. C. Blevins Trucking, Inc., an independent truck driver, an employee of Pinnacle resources, and the person who discovered the victim. Charles D. Litton, Operations Manager of Pinnacle Resources, L.L.C., was interviewed on December 12, 2000, by DMME at Pinnacle Resources, L.L.C.'s Sawmill Hollow # 1 mine.
1. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.
2. A tandem coal truck was being used by the victim.
3. The victim was hauling the second load of coal from the surface mine.
4. The No. 2 truck, owned by A. C. Blevins Trucking, Inc. was involved in the accident. This 1982 Autocar (Model DC64B) truck, (V.I.N. 1WBRCCJE1CU094401), was registered in Virginia under License No. TH 171062.
5. A single ladder to access the truck bed was attached to the left front corner of the bed (driver's side). This ladder, fabricated from flat aluminum bar, was welded to the vertical bed stiffeners. A bottom rung was attached to the bottom of the bed.
6. The truck was provided with an operative automatic tarping device.
7. Interview statements revealed that pieces of rock had been placed into the truck bed with the last bucket-load of coal. The victim had been informed of this by the coal loader. One of these pieces of rock was protruding approximately 6 to 8 inches above the truck bed.
8. Interview statements revealed that the drivers of incoming empty coal trucks heard the victim state, via CB radio, that he was parking the truck to level ("kick down") his load.
9. The victim was observed on the top of the load of coal by a truck driver shortly before the accident.
10. Several pieces of shale rock were observed lying on the roadway berm beside the truck and on the road opposite the berm.
11. Examination of a rock protruding from the coal at the right rear of the truck bed indicated broken upper edges. Small pieces of rock, similar in appearance, were observed on the road on the right side of the truck, and in line with the victim and the protruding rock. These pieces of rock appeared to have broken loose as the victim attempted to pull the vertical rock, causing him to lose balance and pitch over backwards.
12. Marks were present in the dust on the top, right rear edge of the truck bed in line with the victim and the protruding rock. The marks appeared to have been made by the victims legs as he fell from the truck.
13. The victim was discovered positioned face down on the road on the right side of the truck and unresponsive.
14. The victim suffered fatal head injuries.
The victim was performing work from an elevated position without wearing a safety belt and a safety line, or other means to prevent him from falling. The victim apparently lost his balance and fell to the road receiving fatal injuries to the head.
1. 103-k Order No. 3145805: The contractor has experienced a fatal fall of person accident from a 1982 Autocar coal truck (VIN No. WBRCCJE1CUO94401). The victim fell from the top of the truck bed approximately 10 feet. After a preliminary investigation was conducted, the coal truck was moved to a nearby secure location pending further investigation. The location was the old Westmoreland Capitol yard on Rt. 685. Only persons selected by MSHA who are party to the investigation may examine or approach the truck. This order is issued to ensure the safety of persons who may operate the truck until an investigation is made to determine the truck is safe.
2. 104-a Citation No. 7308271, a violation of 77.1710(g), issued January 10, 2001, terminated January 10, 2001: On Saturday, December 9, 2000, a coal truck driver parked his Autocar, model DC64B, tandem truck approximately 2 miles from the mine on an access road, and ascended to the top of the loaded coal truck. He fell approximately 10 feet to the road surface receiving fatal injuries to his head. The victim was apparently removing pieces of rock from the coal in the truck bed and was not using a safety belt and a safety line, or other means to prevent falling. These conditions were determined during a fatal accident investigation that began on December 9, 2000.
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin::
List of persons providing information and/or present during the investigation:
PINNACLE RESOURCES, L.L.C.
Charles D. Litton ............... Operating ManagerA. C. BLEVINS TRUCKING, INC.
John Meyers ............... Operating Manager
Richard Reeves ............... Foreman
David Shelton ............... Coal Loader
Alfred C. Blevins ............... PresidentCHARLES HUBBARD TRUCKING
Charles Hubbard ............... Owner/OperatorV & L WELDING COMPANY
Shelby Lynn Porch ............... Welder HelperAPPALACHIA RESCUE SQUAD
Mike Varner ............... CaptainWISE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
Carlos Bush, Jr. ............... Member
W. C. Darnell ............... InvestigatorVIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF MINES, MINERALS, AND ENERGY
Frank Linkous ............... Chief, Division of MinesMINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION APPROVAL AND CERTIFICATION CENTER
Carroll Greene ............... Coal Mine Inspection Supervisor
John Thomas ............... Coal Mine Inspection Supervisor
Sammy Fleming ............... Coal Mine Inspector
Phil Skorupa ............... Coal Mine Inspector
Daniel Perkins ............... Coal Mine Technical Specialist
Phillip L. McCabe Mechanical EngineerMINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION - DISTRICT 5
Ray McKinney ............... District ManagerLIST OF PERSONS INTERVIEWED
Wayland M. Jessee ............... Assistant District Manager, Inspection Division
James W. Poynter ............... Conference Litigation Representative
Roy D. Davidson ............... Electrical Engineer
Teddy G. Phillips ............... Education Field Services Specialist
Charles E. Upchurch ............... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Alfred C. Blevins ............... President
Charles D. Litton ............... Operating Manager
David Shelton ............... Coal Loader
Charles Hubbard ............... Owner/Operator
Shelby Lynn Porch ............... Welder Helper