DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
(SURFACE COAL MINE)
FATAL HELICOPTER CRASH
MINING TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
MSHA ID NO. 15-18150
ASHCAMP, PIKE COUNTY, KENTUCKY
JUNE 8, 1999
B. G. CURE
ROBERT J. NEWBERRY
RELEASE DATE: December 13, 1999
Originating Office - Coal Mine Safety and Health Administration
4159 North Mayo Trail, Pikeville, Kentucky 41501
Carl E. Boone, II, District Manager
Mining Technologies, Inc., HWM Job #21, is located Upper Pigeon Branch of Elkhorn Creek off State Route 197W near Ashcamp, Pike County, Kentucky. The corporate officers are the following:
Kevin Crutchfield, President, 1500 North Big Run Road, Ashland, KY 41102
John Lynch, V. President/Sec., 1500 North Big Run Road, Ashland, KY 41102
C. K. Lane, Vice President, 1500 North Big Run Road, Ashland, KY 41102
Larry Addington, Director, 1500 North Big Run Road, Ashland, KY 41102
Mining Technologies, Inc. is a subsidiary of AEI Holding Company, Inc., 1500 North Big Run Road, Ashland, KY 41102.
The mining operation consists of an ADDCAR High Wall Mining System. The mine produces coal from the Whitesburg coal seam. The highwall is created during contour mining by Branham and Baker Coal Co., Inc. at their Three Mile Mine #1, MSHA I.D. No. 15-18150. Coal is loaded into highway trucks and transported to Branham and Baker Coal, Co., Inc., Rob Fork Processing plant located at Dorton, Kentucky.
The mine currently employs 17 persons on two 12-hour shifts per day. The first shift starts at 6:00 am and ends at 6:00 pm. The second shift starts at 6:00 pm and ends at 6:00 am. Maintenance is conducted on-shift as needed and on non-producing days. The mine operates five or six days per week and produces an average of 1500 tons per day.
A complete health and safety inspection of the mine was ongoing at the time of the accident.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On Tuesday, June 8, 1999, at approximately 9:30 am, John Smith and Sherman A. Sharp Jr., of Mining Technologies, Inc.(a subsidiary of AEI Holding Company, Inc.), and LaRay Collyer, Gary Landsdale, and John R. Udd of San Juan Coal Co.(a subsidiary of BHP Minerals, Inc.), boarded an American Eurocopter AS-350B helicopter, registration N35AG, piloted by Charles J. Helms, Jr. of Kindill Mining, Inc., (also a subsidiary of AEI Holding Company, Inc.). The helicopter departed Tri-State Airport, Huntington, West Virginia with the pilot and the five passengers aboard enroute to Breathitt County, Kentucky to view a Mining Technologies, Inc. ADDCAR Highwall Mining System located on Addington Enterprises, Inc., Job #17 surface mine.
The helicopter departed the Breathitt County site with the pilot and five passengers aboard enroute to the Mining Technologies, Inc. HWM Job #21 at Branham and Baker Coal Co., Inc., Three Mile Mine #1, in Pike County, Kentucky. The helicopter landed on the Whitesburg coal seam level at the mine site and dropped off the five passengers onboard. It then departed the landing area to refuel at the Pike County-Hatcher Field Airport, Pikeville, Kentucky.
Randall Risner, superintendent of Three Mile Mine #1, and a witness who observed the accident stated, the helicopter lifted off and climbed in a shallow nose down attitude, heading north. The helicopter traveled for about a 1/4 mile and struck two electrical wires. He then observed a flash of light and heard a loud explosion.
Gary Landsdale, a witness who was one of the passengers on the inbound flight stated: "...I heard a loud crack, like an explosion behind me. I turned around and saw the helicopter drop with the tail section and rotor separated from the main body of the helicopter..."
Mr. Risner stated that upon seeing the helicopter drop to the ground he ran to his vehicle and drove to the cut-thru on the Hazard #4 coal seam level where he saw the downed helicopter engulfed in flames. He immediately radioed for two water trucks and Mine Emergency Technicians to be dispatched to the crash site. The fire was extinguished in 3-5 minutes. The pilot was found in the wrecked helicopter, apparently killed on impact. Mr. Risner then notified the Pike County Coroner, Kentucky State Police, MSHA, and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals.
INVESTIGATION OF ACCIDENT
An investigation of the accident began at approximately 11:45 am, June 8, 1999, after notification by Branham and Baker officials who had secured the area and set up a road block at the entrance to the mine. B. G. Cure, Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector/Accident Investigator and Thomas M. Charles, Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector traveled to the mine site and met with mine officials, officials from the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals, the Kentucky State Police, and the Pike County Coroner. The area was cordoned off by the Kentucky State Police, upon their arrival. The Pike County Coroner contacted the Federal Aviation Administration who advised that the area should be secured and left undisturbed except as necessary to remove the body of the deceased. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), conducted a separate investigation of the accident and will issue a report of their findings at a later date.
- The victim, Charles J. Helms, Jr., had twenty-two years experience as a helicopter pilot.
- The 69,900 volts AC (phase-to-phase), energized transmission lines were owned by American Electric Power.
- The 69,900 volts AC, five wire system was not protected or identified by elevation markers.
- The helicopter contacted 2 wires of the five wire system.
- The span length of the transmission lines was 2875.69 feet and the height of the conductor above ground at the belly of the sag was 181.8 feet.
- The victim possessed a commercial pilot certificate for single and multi-engine airplanes.
- The victim reported 6,180 hours of total flight experience on his last application for a Federal Aviation Administration First Class Medical Certificate, which was issued on September 25,1998.
- One of the witnesses stated that the wind was calm and visibility was good at the time of the accident. He further stated that there was a light haze in the area.
- The helicopter was owned and operated by Kindill Mining, Inc., a subsidiary of AEI Holding Company, Inc.
- The autopsy report from the Office of the Associate Chief Medical Examiner attributed the cause of death to multiple fractures and internal injuries.
According to information gathered in interviews with eyewitnesses to the accident, the helicopter took off without incident; however, during its assent it struck overhead power wires, severing the tail boom and one blade of the main rotor, fell to the ground, and burst into flames. According to preliminary information filed by the National Transportation Safety Board, there were no apparent indications of mechanical difficulties with the helicopter prior to the crash. The state medical examiner's report did not reveal any medical findings that contributed to the crash.
- 103(k) Order No. 7352456, was issued to Mining Technologies, Inc., HWM Job #21, to ensure the safety of all miners working in the area and to preserve the accident site.
- 103(k) Order No. 7352455, was issued to Branham & Baker Coal Co., Inc., Three Mile Mine #1, to ensure the safety of all miners working in the area and to preserve the accident site.
B. G. Cure
Surface Mine Specialist/
Robert J. Newberry
Carl E. Boone, II
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