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Underground Coal Mine

Fatal Machinery Accident
November 21, 2001


Gibson Mine
Gibson County Coal Company L.L.C.
Princeton, Gibson County, Indiana
I. D. No. 12-02215

Accident Investigators

Michael D. Rennie
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Dean Cripps
Electrical Engineer

Ron Deaton
Educational Field Services

Bud Page
Approval & Certification Center - Technical Support

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
District 8
2300 Willow Street, Vincennes, Indiana 47591
James K. Oakes, District Manager

Release Date 07-10-2002


On Wednesday, November 21, 2001, at approximately 8:15 p.m., a fatal machinery accident occurred at the Gibson County Coal Company L.L.C., Gibson Mine. Strail M. Creech, Victim, a classified continuous-mining machine operator on the No. 3 Working Section, had completed mining operations in the 3 Right Crosscut, and was in the process of backing the continuous-mining machine from the No. 3 Entry to the No. 4 Entry to allow access to the crosscut by the roof bolting equipment. Creech, who was operating the machine by remote control, temporarily stopped the machine for a moment, and walked along the outby rib line, toward the No. 3 Entry with Section Foreman Keith Lovan, to discuss the entry and crosscut sights. After these discussions, Lovan walked outby in the No. 3 Entry, and a short time later heard a moan. Lovan returned to the mining machine and found Creech pinned between the ripper head of the continuous-mining machine and the outby coal rib.


The Gibson Mine, Gibson County Coal L.L.C., is located west of U.S. Route 41, and two miles northwest of Princeton, (Gibson County) Indiana. The Gibson Mine is a subsidiary of Alliance Coal, LLC of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and began production operations in July 2000. The mine employs 183 people, 173 underground, and 10 on the surface. The mine is opened into the Springfield No. 5 Coal Seam by a man and material slope and a belt slope, both being a distance of 1620 feet in length. A 22-foot diameter split vertical air shaft is also constructed from the surface to the Springfield No. 5 Coal Seam, a distance of 450 feet. The coal seam at this mine varies from 5 to 8 feet in thickness. Ventilation is provided by a main mine fan exhausting a total of 485,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The most current laboratory analysis of return air samples collected by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) revealed a total liberation of 1,915,437 cubic feet of methane per day (24 hrs.). During advance mining, face areas are ventilated by blowing line curtain and scrubber equipped continuous-mining machines. The immediate mine roof consists of 25 to 45 feet of gray shale and the overburden is a maximum of 500 feet.

The mine operates on two production shifts and one maintenance shift. Coal is produced on both the day shift and second shift and the third shift is used for maintenance. The mine produces 9,672 tons of raw coal per day from three mechanized mining machine supersections, using single split ventilation with two remote continuous miners. The coal is transported to the surface by a series of conveyor belts extending to the surface preparation plant. After cleaning, the coal is shipped via truck to the PSI Cinergy Electric Plant, which is located seven miles west of the mine.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration on August 8, 2001, approved the roof control plan in effect at the time of the accident. The MSHA District Manager approved the mine training plan on October 10, 1999.

The principal officers for Gibson Mine at the time of the accident were:
President................................. .......................... Joseph Craft III
General Manager........................................................... Jim Ricketts
Engineering Manager......................................................Larry Klobuka
Safety Director.................................................................Matthew Pride
An MSHA Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) began on October 3, 2001, and was ongoing at the time of the accident. The previous Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was completed on September 19, 2001.

The Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) incident rate for January 1 through June 30, 2001, was 7.00 for underground mines nationwide and 21.18 for Gibson Mine.


On Wednesday, November 21, 2001, the evening shift crew entered the mine at 3:15 p.m. and arrived on the No. 3 Working Section at 3:35 p.m. Lovan held a short safety meeting, reminded everyone to watch out for each other and to be careful - the holidays are here and no one needs to be hurt.

After eating dinner, Sam Duncan and Joey Clevidence, Roof Bolter Operators, returned to the roof bolting machine in the face area of No. 4 Entry. Duncan stated that he talked with Lovan about making sure a ventilation curtain was installed in the No. 4 Entry. Duncan stated that he saw Creech at the front of the continuous-mining machine and overheard him say that mining operations were complete in the 3 Right Crosscut. Creech was in the process of backing the continuous-mining machine fro the No. 3 Entry to the No. 4 Entry, to allow access for roof bolting operations. Creech, who was operating the machine by remote control, temporarily stopped the machine for a moment to talk with Supervisor Keith Lovan. Both Creech and Lovan walked along the outby rib line toward the No. 3 Entry and discussed the crosscut and entry sights.

At approximately 8:15 p.m., Lovan heard a moan, returned to the crosscut between No. 3 and No. 4 Entries, and found Creech pinned face first against the coal rib with the machine-cutting head against his back. Duncan and Clevidence also ran to the front of the continuous-mining machine. Duncan immediately went back to his roof bolting machine and backed the roof bolter into the conveyor boom of the continuous mining machine several times in an attempt to pivot the head of the continuous-mining machine away from Creech. A short time later, Troy Gibson, the left side continuous-mining machine operator, arrived and found that the TX 3 remote control box was between Creech and the coal rib. Gibson immediately told Keith Hawkins to bring in his shuttle car to the boom area of the continuous-mining machine. A chain was attached between the shuttle car to the conveyor boom of the continuous-mining machine. As a result, the head of the continuous-mining machine was pulled away from and off Creech.

Duncan returned to the unit shack to retrieve the first-aid supplies. Duncan also told Jeff Parker and Greg Wilson, Bottom Laborers, who were building a ventilation brattice, and Darren Houck, Unit Repairman, who was working on a scoop in the area, that a serious accident had occurred. Parker and Wilson prepared a pickup truck as transportation for the victim. Houck, who is an emergency medical technician, went to the accident site. He stated that when he arrived, Creech was placed in the Stokes rescue basket and moved to the rear of the continuous-mining machine. Houck began trying to find a pulse and assess Creech's condition for any signs of life. He then inserted an airway and helped load Creech into the back of a pickup truck for transportation out of the mine. Houck began administering CPR and Ronnie Drake, Jr., Unit Scoop Operator, began administering rescue breaths in an attempt to revive Creech. CPR was continued to the mine bottom and onto the surface.

The Gibson County Ambulance Service was dispatched, and arrived on the scene at 8:20 p.m., and took over care of Creech. Mark S. Blakely, Paramedic, and Gina L. Hill, Emergency Medical Technician, found no pulse and evidence of severe trauma to the abdomen of Creech. Since all attempts to resuscitate Creech were unsuccessful, Richard Hickrod, Gibson County Coroner, was called to the scene. Upon arrival, Hickrod observed the victim's injuries and pronounced the victim dead. The coroner then asked that Creech be taken to the Vanderburgh County Coroner's morgue facility. The Vanderburgh County Coroner performed an autopsy and determined that cause of death was due to fracture of the neck and blunt force injuries to the head and neck.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Vincennes, Indiana, District Office, District 8, was notified by Mike Carlisle, Purchasing Agent, on Wednesday, November 21, 2001, at approximately 8:45 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST), that a fatal accident had occurred. The accident occurred at approximately 8:15 p.m. on the afternoon shift, and involved a continuous-mining machine. Emergency personnel from the Gibson County Ambulance Service had been notified and quickly responded. After MSHA was informed of the accident, Vernon Stumbo, Coal Mine Inspector, was dispatched to the mine to ensure the that the accident site was secure, and issue a 103(k) order to ensure the safety of the miners.

MSHA dispatched an accident investigation team from the Benton, Illinois Field Office, to Gibson Mine on Wednesday, November 21, 2001. Upon arriving at the mine, the investigation team was briefed concerning the circumstances surrounding the accident, and held a brief preliminary hearing with miners who worked on the working section.

After arrival, the accident investigation team contacted Don Feistel, inspector from the State of Indiana Bureau of Mines and Minerals. The accident investigation team traveled underground to the accident site and jointly began the investigation assisted by mine management, the Indiana Bureau of Mines, and mine employees. Interviews of miners known to have actual knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the Gibson Mine Office the morning of November 23, 2001. Bud Page, Electrical Engineer from the MSHA Approval and Certification Center, and Ronnie Deaton, Education and Training Specialist from the Education and Field Services group, Eastern Region, arrived on November 22, 2001, and assisted in the investigation.

During the course of the investigation, several electrical components from the continuous-mining machine were retrieved to be tested for possible defects. Testing was conducted at the Matric Limited Facility and Joy Manufacturing Headquarters in the Franklin, Pennsylvania area. The testing was witnessed, all of in part, by members of the MSHA investigation team, engineers from the MSHA Approval and Certification Center, Technical Support, and a representative from Alliance Coal Company.


Human Factors

Creech had no known physical impairments or medical conditions that would have contributed to his being pinned between the continuous-mining machine cutting head and the coal rib.

There were three people working in the area at the time of the accident. However, there were no eye witnesses to the accident.

Environmental Factors

The mine roof and ribs at the accident site were found to be solid and stable. The mine floor was smooth and dry, with a slight downgrade (the downgrade did not contribute to the accident).

Physical Factors

The Continuous-Mining Machine

The radio remote-controlled continuous-mining machine was a Joy 14CM15, Serial No. JM 5313, with a TX 3 remote, Serial No. 75204AC024-0. The continuous-mining machine is 32 feet 6 inches in length and weighs a total of 23,000 pounds. The weekly examination and maintenance records were found up-to-date.

Additionally, during testing at the mine, the lights on the Joy continuous-mining machine were found in compliance. It was also determined through testing that the machine hydraulics and tram (both remote and onboard controls) were found to be functioning properly. It had been reported that a problem had occurred with the tram prior to the accident. However, during testing, this condition could not be duplicated.

After the conclusion of the onsite investigation, several electrical components on the Joy continuous-mining machine were retrieved, and sent to the Matric Limited Facility and the Joy Manufacturing Facility, where multiple tests were performed. Functional testing of the tram drive components showed that they were all operating properly.

The Continuous-Mining Machine Cable

The continuous-mining machine cable was a 2/0, 995-volt AC, flat shielded cable. The cable was lying in slack loops between the outby rib line and within 6 inches of the machine gathering head pan. The cable extended from the No. 4 Entry into the last open crosscut toward the No. 3 Entry along the outby rib line.

Radio remote control Unit

After the accident, it was determined that the TX 3 remote had suffered superficial damage to the outer case. The left side handle was bent outward, and a small crack was observed between the main housing and handle. The unit was tested both underground and at the Matric Limited's facility and found to be operating within normal parameters.

Since there were two radio remote control Joy continuous-mining machines being operated on this working section at the time of the accident, underground tests were conducted to determine if cross signals between transmitters and receivers could have occurred. The results of these tests showed that there was no cross communication between machines.

Training Records

A review of the training records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.


The root cause of the accident was the failure of the continuous-mining machine operator to remain in a safe location or a safe distance away from the machine while it was in motion.

The accident occurred as a result of the victim being located between the continuous-mining machine cutting head and the outby coal rib while the machine was in motion. The exact cause of the accident could not be determined. However, it is the consensus of the investigation team that operator disorientation with the remote control may have been a factor in this accident.


The following order was issued due to conditions revealed during the investigation:

     103(k) Order No. 7565425 was issued on November 21, 2001, and terminated on November 23, 2001.

The mine has experienced a fatal machinery accident in the 003 Unit. This order is issued to assure the safety of any person in the coal mine until an examination or investigation is made to determine that the 003 Unit is safe. Only those persons selected from company officials, state officials, the miners' representative, and other persons who are deemed by MSHA to have information relevant to the investigation may enter or remain in the affected area.

Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB01C39


Listed below are those persons who participated and/or were present during the investigation:

Charles Wesley .......... Alliance Coal (Lexington, Kentucky) Senior Vice President of Operations
Richard J. Robinson .......... Alliance Coal (Lexington, Kentucky) General Manager
Jim Ricketts .......... General Manager, Gibson Mine
Jim Brown .......... Mine Foreman, Gibson Mine
Larry Klobuka .......... Chief Engineer, Gibson Mine
Jim Brown .......... Mine Engineer, Gibson Mine
Matthew Pride .......... Safety Director, Gibson Mine
Don Feistel .......... Department of Mines and Minerals
David L. Whitcomb .......... Assistant District Manager
Donald R. Persinger .......... Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Ron Stahlhut .......... Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Electrical)
Michael D. Rennie .......... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Charles J. Conaughty .......... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Special Investigations)
Dean Cripps .......... Electrical Engineer
Vernon Stumbo .......... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Ronnie Deaton .......... Mine Safety and Health Specialist Educational Field Services
Bud Page .......... Electrical Engineer Approval & Certification Center Technical Support
Keith Belcher .......... Mechanical Engineer Approval & Certification Center Technical Support
Bob Boring .......... Electrical Engineer Approval & Certification Center Technical Support


Listed below are those persons who were interviewed or provided information that was pertinent to the investigation: Gibson County Officials
Richard C. Hickrod .......... Gibson County Coroner
Gibson County Ambulance Service
Mark Blakely .......... Paramedic Gina Hill .......... EMT A
Gibson County Coal, L.L.C. Employees
Keith Lovan .......... Examiner / Supervisor
Bill Sheffer .......... Supervisor / Mine Manager
Samuel L. Duncan .......... Roof Bolter Operator
Joey Clevidence .......... Roof Bolter Operator
Troy Gibson .......... Continuous Miner Operator
Ronnie H. Drake, Jr. .......... Scoop Operator
Darren H. Houck .......... Repairman
Jeff Adams .......... Continuous Miner Operator (Day Shift)
Keith Hawkins .......... Shuttle Car Operator
Gary W. Nally .......... Maintenance Chief
Mike Carlisle .......... Purchasing Agent
Joy Manufacturing Company
Clint Glover .......... Design Engineer
Dave Thomas .......... Joy / MSHA Liaison
Dan Rockwell .......... Senior Field Services Engineer
Mike Muse .......... Manager of Engineering
Sam McDowell .......... Senior Engineer
Matric Limited
Fabian J. Dechant .......... Director of Application Development
Walter Coxson .......... Design Engineering Manager
Douglas L. Sturtz .......... Manager Customer Service
Chris Gatesman .......... Electronic Technician Service Support
William L. Mertzeis .......... Electronic Technician Service Support
Magnetec Power Electronics Group
Joe Ley .......... Facility Manager
Gary Bolbat .......... Sales and Marketing Engineer
Stanifer and Stanifer Attorneys at Law
David H. Stanifer .......... Attorney