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District 8


Russell Minerals West Frankfort, Inc. (ID No. 11 02801)
Russell Minerals West Frankfort, Inc.
West Frankfort, Franklin County, Illinois

May 24, 1995


Michael D. Rennie
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector


Wolfgang M.J. Kaak
Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
Post Office Box 418, 501 Busseron Street,
Vincennes, Indiana 47591
James K. Oakes, District Manager


The Russell Minerals West Frankfort, Inc. Mine, Russell Minerals West Frankfort, Inc., a subsidiary of Alexander Russell PLC of Glasgow, Scotland, is located east of West Frankfort, Franklin County, Illinois. The mine was opened in 1987 reclaiming refuse piles and slurry impoundments of the abandoned Old Ben Coal Company No. 9 Mine. In 1992 the preparation plant ceased processing refuse and slurry. Since that time, the mine has been doing reclamation work on the refuse piles and slurry impoundments. During inclement weather, dismantling of the preparation plant and attached belt conveyor structures is done. The dismantled belt conveyor structures were to be sent to Alexander Russell PLC's sand and gravel operation in Darlington, Pennsylvania for use at a later date.

The mine employs miners on a seasonal basis, as needed. At the time of the accident, the mine employed five miners on one shift per day. The normal work shift was from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The principal officer of the mine at the time of the accident was Roy Forsythe, Foreman.

The last regular Mine Safety and Health Administration Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was conducted on March 27, 1995.


On May 24, 1995, at about 6:30 a.m., Roy Forsythe, Foreman, arrived at the mine to prepare for the day's work. The workmen started arriving about 6:45 a.m. At 6:50 a.m., Forsythe talked to Frederick Bedokis, Victim, and gave him his work instructions to continue pushing refuse around the reclamation area. At 8:30 a.m., Forsythe went to the refuse hill and told Bedokis that another worker, David Holman, would relieve him of his dozer duties. Forsythe told Bedokis to go to the preparation plant and continue to remove the old conduit and wire from the switch gear room and then start cutting a coal chute loose. The coal chute is located beneath the classifying screen of the plant. Forsythe had placed a cutting saw (sawzall) and a gasoline generator in Bedokis' pickup truck. Bedokis was to assist David Inglis, a representative of the parent company Alexander Russell PLC, with this work. Inglis, Forsythe and Bedokis determined this work would take the rest of the shift to finish. Forsythe stated Bedokis left for the plant between 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. This was Forsythe's last contact with Bedokis. Forsythe went to the reclamation area to load refuse into haulage trucks.

Inglis stated he arrived at the mine site about 7:30 a.m. After he made some phone calls, he followed Bedokis to the preparation plant where they worked together removing conduit and wire from the switch gear room. Inglis left the work site on a couple of occasions and returned to the mine office to make a call to Glasgow, Scotland. Inglis left the work site between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. to return the power saw to the rental company. Inglis stated when he left, the work in the switch gear room was almost finished and Bedokis was gathering up the tools and materials, since it was close to the end of the normal work shift. He also stated the work on the coal chute had not been started before he left the work site.

According to Lindell McRoy, delivery driver for Shew Brothers Welding, he delivered oxygen/acetylene bottles to the holding area near the preparation plant a little after 2:00 p.m. Bedokis signed the delivery order and talked with McRoy for about ten minutes. McRoy said that Bedokis was alone and he did not notice anyone else in the area.

About 3:10 p.m. on the day of the accident, Forsythe went to the preparation plant to check on the work that had been done and pick up the portable generator. He stated that when he arrived in the area, he noticed Bedokis' truck parked near the belt conveyor structure and the end of the structure on the ground. He called to Bedokis, but did not get any response. As he neared the structure, he noticed the oxygen/acetylene torch, which was still burning, hanging over the handrail of the belt conveyor structure. He then noticed Bedokis in a kneeling position with his head under his shoulder. Forsythe felt for a pulse, found none, laid Bedokis on his side and covered him with a raincoat he had retrieved from Bedokis' truck. He immediately drove to the Mike Gray Salvage Business, located across from the entrance to the mine area, and had them call for emergency assistance. The ambulance arrived at 3:33 p.m. West Frankfort Fireman and EMT, Jim Brown, checked Bedokis for vital signs. No vital signs were present. Bedokis was transported to the UMWA Hospital in West Frankfort, Illinois, where he was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m.

Forsythe and Inglis followed the ambulance to the hospital to determine Bedokis' condition. Forsythe stated that he instructed Inglis to return to the mine office and contact the State of Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals and MSHA of the accident.

MSHA was notified of the accident at 5:15 p.m. and an investigation was started immediately.


  1. The preparation plant stopped processing refuse and slurry in 1992.

  2. Power to the preparation plant and surrounding structures had been removed.

  3. Removal of conduit and wire from the switch gear room was being done.

  4. The preparation plant is a free-standing structure connected by conveyor belt structures with attached walkways.

  5. The clean coal belt is a rigid, free-standing structure that extends out of the preparation plant.

  6. According to Forsythe, on May 20, 1995, the tailpiece and ground level sections of the clean coal belt conveyor structure had been removed by Bedokis, Inglis and Forsythe.

  7. According to Forsythe, on May 20, 1995, a work plan using a rental crane to hold the clean coal belt conveyor during dismantling operations was discussed by Bedokis, Inglis and Forsythe.

  8. The victim had been employed by Russell Minerals West Frankfort, Inc. on a seasonal basis since 1988. He had been laid off on September 26, 1994, and re-employed on May 18, 1995.

  9. The victim was a classified dozer operator with welding and cutting experience.

  10. The victim had a total of 29 years' mining experience.

  11. During the investigation, it was determined:

    1. The victim removed eight structural support bolts between the two main sections of support structure with an oxygen/acetylene torch;

    2. The victim fell approximately 18 feet when the belt conveyor structure separated and partially collapsed;

    3. A safety belt, line or other means to prevent persons from falling was not provided for the workers at the work site, nor anywhere else on the property; and

    4. According to Forsythe, no work was to be conducted on the belt conveyor structure on this date.


The accident occurred when the victim removed the support bolts holding the main belt conveyor structure together. When the structure separated, the victim fell resulting in fatal injuries.

The following factors are believed to have contributed to this accident:

  1. The victim was working alone at the time of the accident.

  2. The victim was not provided with a safety belt, line or other means to prevent persons from the danger of falling.


The following order and citation were issued to Russell Minerals West Frankfort, Inc. as a result of the investigation:

  1. A 103(k) order No. 4264320 was issued to assure the safety of all miners until completion of the accident investigation.

  2. A 104(a) citation No. 4260303 was issued for a violation of 30 CFR Section 77.1710(g). A safety belt, line or other means to prevent persons from the danger of falling was not provided.

Other conditions referenced in this report which constituted violations of the mandatory standards contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and were considered not to have contributed to the accident were the subject of citations issued under a separate inspection event.

Respectfully submitted by:

Wolfgang M.J. Kaak
Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Michael D. Rennie
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

David L. Whitcomb
Subdistrict Manager

James K. Oakes
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95C16]