The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training has cited Patriot Coal for not making sure mine walls and roofs were properly supported, which may have led to a coal-burst accident that killed two miners in Boone County on May 12.
Moreover, the Patriot Coal-owned Brody Mining Co. in Wharton failed to notify the Mine and Industrial Accident Emergency Operations Center of a similar coal outburst three days before the fatal incident.
The report defines a coal burst as a failure of a roof, pillar or wall that leads to coal being violently and powerfully pushed into the mine shaft.
According to the state investigation report, there was a coal outburst in Brody Mine No. 1 on May 9, just 100 feet from where the fatal accident later occurred. On May 9, a pillar rib burst and forced a mine operator to the floor and against the load end of a shuttle car. He was covered with coal up to his waist and was trapped there for several minutes.
The shuttle car operator said the release of energy was so strong it blew rib bolts into the shuttle car tracks.
Once rescued, the mine operator refused medical care.
The shuttle car operator also reported seeing a 6- to 8-inch gap between the pillar and the mine roof after the outburst.
According to the report, an assistant foreman found spider cracks in the roof and some rib deterioration and told the section foreman, “I would not mine this.”
Several safety options, including bracing the roof with timbers, were discussed by the mine manager and the general foreman, but the measures were not taken.
On May 12, Eric Legg, 48, of Twilight, and Gary Hensley, 46, of Chapmanville, were trapped beneath several feet of coal after a coal burst. Miners on duty said they saw about 4.5 feet of coal with only a small opening between the top of the coal and the mine roof after the outburst.
Miners at the scene were able to locate Legg, who had no signs of life, and Hensley, who was unresponsive during their rescue attempt.
Both miners were pronounced dead at the Charleston Area Medical Center Med Base.
The Office of Miner’s Health, Safety and Training has ordered the scene be preserved for a complete investigation.
The mine has been cited for a total of three violations, including failure to properly support the mine roof, face and ribs.
According to the Associated Press, Brody No. 1 mine was one of three mines last year deemed a “pattern violator.”
The incidents are currently under investigation by the U. S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, confirmed spokeswoman Amy Louviere on Monday.
— E-mail: splummer@