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MSHA News Release No. 95-030
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: (703) 235-1452

July 26, 1995

MSHA SEEKS CAUSE OF PENNSYLVANIA MINE TRAGEDY

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is commencing a thorough investigation into the fall of material that claimed the lives of two miners yesterday at an underground anthracite coal mine in Schuylkill County, Pa., Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, announced.

"I would like to express the deepest sympathy for the families of the two miners who died in the accident," McAteer said. "Nothing we do can change what happened, but by determining the cause of the accident, we can learn how better to prevent similar tragedies in the future."

MSHA's accident investigation team will be headed by Joseph Garcia, manager of MSHA's District 2 office in Hunker, Pa., McAteer said. The team will include several highly experienced mine accident investigators and technical specialists who have extensive experience in anthracite mining. The investigation will be conducted jointly with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources Bureau of Deep Mine Safety.

McAteer said that it is not possible to predict how long the investigation will take since investigations vary in complexity.

"The investigators will take as long as they need to determine and evaluate all the facts. We will publish their investigation report so that the whole mining community can learn from it," McAteer said.

MSHA investigates all fatal accidents in mines. MSHA investigations typically include a thorough examination of the accident site, interviews, review of mine records, and -- when needed to determine an accident's cause -- laboratory tests and engineering studies.

Preliminary information indicates that coal fell from a support pillar in the L.V. Coal Company's No. 4 Slope mine yesterday at about 11:00 a.m., partially filling an underground tunnel. Mine rescue workers, tunnelling through the loose material and installing wooden supports as they proceeded, recovered the body of Allen Deeter about 4:20 p.m. After additional tunnelling, the body of Shawn Kelly was recovered at about 7:20 p.m. Rescue and recovery teams moved more than 10 tons of coal during their efforts.

Mine owners and miners from several area mines took part in the rescue and recovery work, McAteer noted. "All those who joined in the efforts to locate the two men deserve the highest, most heartfelt commendation," McAteer said. "No one could have done more."

So far in 1995, 21 lives have been lost in coal mine accidents nationwide, compared with 27 at this time last year. Coal mining deaths last year totaled 44, a historic low record.