Skip to content
MSHA - Fatal Investigation Report


District 11

Accident Investigation Report
(Underground Coal Mine)

Shoal Creek Mine (I.D. No. 01-02901)
Drummond Company, Inc.
Adger, Jefferson County, Alabama
October 9, 1999


John Church
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office � Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 213, Birmingham, Alabama 35209
Frank C. Young, District Manager


A fatal accident occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m., on October 9, 1999, during meshing operations at the C-2 longwall face. The victim, Terry O'Rear, was a longwall machine helper who had 20 years of mining experience. He was fatally injured when a piece of middleman rock, nine (9) feet long, three and one half feet (3.5) wide, and seven (7) to seventeen (17) inches thick, separated from the face and pinned him against a roll of chain link mesh and the face conveyor. He was in the process of unrolling the mesh prior to the accident. The victim was pronounced dead at the Carraway Medical Center at 5:12 p.m.


Drummond Company Inc. Shoal Creek Mine, I.D. 01-02901, is located at 8488 Nancy Ann Bend Road, Jefferson County, Alabama. The Mine was put into production in May of 1994. The mine operates in the Mary Lee and Blue Creek coal seams at a depth of 1300 feet from the surface. The average mining height is 120 inches. The mine has one (1) slope and seven (7) shaft openings, the slope and three (3) shafts serve as intakes and the remaining four (4) shafts serve as exhausts. The latest laboratory analysis of return air samples at the fans indicates a total methane liberation of 9,970,505 cubic feet per day. Ventilation is provided by four (4) exhausting fans with a total air volume of 2,625,000 cubic feet per minute.

The mine operates three (3) shifts per day, six (6) days per week. Production is approximately 28,745 raw tons of coal per day from five (5) continuous miner sections and two (2) longwall sections. The Ventilation Plan in effect at the time of the accident was approved by the District Manager on March 29, 1999. The Roof Control Plan was approved on July 2, 1999 and the Training Plan on August 4, 1998.

The mine has 724 underground and 120 surface employees. Mine employees are represented by the United Mine Workers of America. Employees are transported underground by elevator. Diesel powered, rubber tired vehicles are used to transport personnel and materials to the underground work areas. Coal leaves the mine via a slope belt.

An MSHA Safety and Health Inspection was completed on June 16, 1999 and another was ongoing at the time of t

he accident. The non-fatal days lost (NFDL) incident rate for underground mines during the last available quarter was 7.83 nationwide and 14.41 for this mine.


The day shift C-2 longwall section crew, composed of seven (7) persons and supervised by Norwood Brown (Longwall Foreman), entered the mine at the regularly scheduled start time of 7:00 a.m., on Saturday, October 9, 1999. The crew traveled to the C-2 longwall section via a diesel powered, rubber tired vehicle towing a mantrip. The crew was scheduled to begin the initial process of preparing the face and installing chain link wire mesh as temporary roof support in preparation of the C-2 longwall move. Meshing activities include drilling holes and placement of mesh hangers, laying out and unrolling of the mesh, and hanging the mesh at the shield tips.

The crew arrived on section at approximately 7:30 a.m. Brown held a safety meeting to discuss safe work procedures and cautioned personnel to be careful of the face and roof. Brown then went over the work activities for the shift. They included completing a shearer pass from the tailgate to the headgate. The shearer would then be used to pull the mesh along the face (from the headgate to the tailgate). A clean-up pass would not be made. Mesh installation would then begin.

The shearer completed the cut and had pulled the mesh along the face at approximately 9:30 a.m. The shearer was left at the tailgate and installation activities proceeded without incident. Brown conducted a preshift examination for the oncoming evening shift between 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. There were no hazards recorded in the examination book for this preshift.

At approximately 3:30 p.m., Terry O'Rear (Longwall Machine Helper), and Eddie Pittman (Shearer Operator), were at shield 50 hooking chain to the shield that would be used to lift and unroll the mesh. Pittman was standing on the face conveyor pan line. O'Rear had crossed over the rolled mesh and was positioned between the face and face conveyor, his back to the face. Pittman heard the rock fall and O'Rear cry out. As the dust settled, Pittman saw that O'Rear was trapped against the rolled mesh and face conveyor by a piece of middleman rock that had separated from the face. The rock was measured to be nine (9) feet long by three and one half (3.5) feet wide and seven (7) to seventeen (17) inches thick.

Brown, Mark Mauldin (Shearer Helper), Roger Duncan (Longwall Machine Helper), Danny Gann (Electrician), and Everette Teske (Outby Utility Man), were conducting various meshing activities between shields 42 and 45 when they heard the rock fall and the victim cry out. The men ran up to where the rock had fallen and saw Pittman attempting to lift the rock off the victim. Several men tried to move the rock but could not. Brown called for a jack, come-a-long, and a rock bar.

Mauldin was sent to the headgate to call for an ambulance and the Lifesaver Helicopter. Jeff Deason (Electrician) had just walked to the headgate to reset a breaker when he heard the call from the face for an ambulance and helicopter. He called the Control Operations (CO) room and told the person manning the CO room to call for an ambulance and the Lifesaver Helicopter. He then called the C-2 section dinner area and told Ralph Price (Longwall Maintenance Foreman) to get a stretcher and to drive the diesel mantrip as close to the face as possible. Deason then went to the face to lend assistance to the men working to free the victim. Price and Russ Weekly took the stretcher to the face.

Brown and Pittman began digging under the rock with drill steels. The oncoming evening shift brought a jack and come-a-long. There was not adequate clearance to place a bar in the jack handle and use the jack to lift the rock. The men were able to dig enough to pass a chain under the rock. The chain was hooked to a come-a-long secured to the shield canopy. Another come-a-long was secured to the face conveyor cable trough and a chain wrapped around the rolled mesh. This come-a-long was used to pull the mesh toward the shields. The come-a-long secured to the shield canopy was then used to lift the rock off the victim. Drill steels were used to prop the rock to prevent it from shifting. The victim did not respond to the men's continual efforts to talk to him. No vital signs were observed. The victim was placed on a stretcher and was transported to the mantrip. Approximately 25 minutes elapsed from the time the victim was trapped until he was transported to the mantrip.

The men were met at the mantrip by Richard Ruble, (Longwall Maintenance Coordinator) and Bill Shaw, (Longwall Maintenance Foreman, Weekends). Both men had been trained as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). The men checked for and did not detect any vital signs and then began Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). They were met approximately halfway to the elevator by an EMT from the responding ambulance who started an I.V. Ruble and Shaw continued to administer CPR until the victim was turned over to the ambulance life support personnel on the surface. A monitor indicated a heart rhythm, but no pulse. Life support personnel used a defibrillator in an attempt to revive the victim and a pulse was induced. The victim was transported by the ambulance to the Lifesaver helicopter and then on to Carraway Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 5:12 p.m., October 9, 1999 by the attending physician, Dr. Wade.


Bob Stamm, Supervisory Coal Mine Inspector, was notified at 4:00 p.m., October 9, 1999, and Coal Mine Inspector/Accident Investigation Team Leader, John M. Church and Coal Mine Inspector Charles T. Langley, were dispatched to the mine site. MSHA's Division of Safety and Technical Support Group were contacted and technical assistance requested. An investigation of the accident began at approximately 6:00 p.m. Supervisory Coal Mine Inspector, Mike Woodrome, and Mining Engineer, James Boyle, arrived at the mine at approximately 6:30 p.m. Langley conducted preliminary interviews with all persons having information relating to the accident and/or participating in the rescue efforts for the victim. Church, Woodrome, and Boyle traveled underground to secure the accident scene and to collect and record any relevant information.

On October 11, 1999, the underground investigation continued with all members of MSHA's investigative team that included personnel from the Division of Safety and Technical Support Group and participants from Drummond Company, Inc., United Mine Workers of America, and the State of Alabama Industrial Relations Department. The final interviews of persons having information relating to the accident and/or participating in rescue efforts were conducted. The investigation was completed on November 5, 1999, with a close-out at the mine.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence of the accident:

1. The Shoal Creek C-2 Longwall Section was in the initial process of unrolling and installing chain link wire mesh in preparation of a longwall move.

2. The accident occurred at shield No. 50, approximately 290 feet from the headgate.

3. The rock that pinned the victim was measured to be 9 feet long by 3.5 feet wide and 7 to 17 inches in thickness. The rock was estimated to weigh 4725 pounds, assuming an average thickness of 12 inches and a weight of 150 pounds per cubic foot of rock.

4. The face at shield No. 50 was 104 inches in height, comprised of an upper (Mary Lee) coal seam of 22.5 inches, a hard shale middleman of 19.5 inches, and a lower (Bluecreek) coal seam of 62 inches.

5. Lights were located on the shields and visibility was good.

6. The face of the C-2 Longwall Section was approximately 1000 feet in length. The panel was mined by a Joy 6LS shearer. The shearer was at the tailgate at the time of the accident.

7. The Roof Control Plan in effect at the time of the accident required the longwall shield tips to be set a minimum distance of 5 feet from the face when persons are required to work or travel between the shield tips and the face.

8. The tip of shield No. 50 was measured to be 65 inches from the face. Shield No. 49 was measured to be 64 inches from the face. Both shields were tight against the roof.

9. A preshift examination of the C-2 Longwall Section was made between 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. for the oncoming evening shift. The accident occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m.

10. The day shift crew completed a coal mining cut from the tailgate to the headgate. The shearer was then trammed to the tailgate, pulling the mesh along the face.

11. No cleanup pass was made with the shearer. Loose material was left along the face to form a "toe" that was intended to reduce the chance of a face roll.

12. The victim positioned himself between the longwall face and the longwall face conveyor.

13.Testimony revealed that the middleman rock had been recognized as a Hazard throughout the life of panel. The entire crew was aware of the hazard and had been cautioned of the danger numerous times during safety meetings.

14. Training records of the victim were checked and no deficiencies were found.


The fatal accident occurred while the victim was hanging chain link mesh along the C-2 longwall face. The victim placed himself between the longwall face and the longwall face conveyor, with his back to the face. A piece of middleman rock separated from the face and pinned the victim against the face conveyor and rolled mesh, inflicting fatal injuries.


A 103-K Order No. 7668013 was issued to ensure the safety of any persons in the area until the accident investigation was completed.

A 104-A S&S Citation No. 7668014 was issued. The C-2 Longwall face was not supported or otherwise controlled to protect miners from face rolls during the meshing process. On October 9, 1999, at approximately 3:30 p.m., a longwall machine helper was fatally injured when a face roll occurred. The helper was working between the panline and face. The physical examination of the accident site revealed a face approximately eight feet in height with a middlemen rock approximately seventeen inches thick located five feet from the floor. Hazardous conditions in the form of loose face material where the meshing process was being performed were observed. The lack of adequate support contributed to the death of the miner.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin: