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District 3

Surface River Coal Loadout Facility


Humphrey No. 7 Mine (I.D. No. 46-01453)
Consolidation Coal Company
Maidsville, Monongalia County, West Virginia

January 24, 1996


John D. Mehaulic, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector


Kerry L. George
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector


Ronald L. Wyatt
Mining Engineer

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
5012 Mountaineer Mall, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505
Timothy J. Thompson, District Manager


The Humphrey No. 7 mine is operated by Consolidation Coal Company, and is located in Maidsville, Monongalia County, West Virginia. The mine is opened by one drift and 12 shafts into the Pittsburgh coal seam. The average mining height is 80 inches. Employment is provided for 341 persons working underground and 95 persons working on the surface.

The mine normally produces coal three shifts a day, five days a week. One longwall and three continuous miner development sections produce 13,000 tons of raw coal daily. Coal produced on the active working sections is transported through the mine by a belt conveyor system then transferred into 20 ton mine cars. Utilizing a track-trolley haulage system, 50 ton locomotives are used to transport the loaded coal cars to the surface. This track-trolley haulage system is also used to transport employees, supplies, and equipment in and out of the mine.

The preparation plant uses chance cone type cyclones, diester tables, and froth flotation cells to process and clean the coal. The plant normally operates two production shifts and one maintenance shift per day. The plant processes coal from the Humphrey No. 7 mine and coal delivered from neighboring Consolidation Coal Company mines.

Once the coal is processed, it travels via a coal conveyor belt to the Humphrey No. 7 Mine, Preparation Plant River Loadout Facility. The river loadout facility is comprised of a computerized double coal tripper conveyor belt that has the capability of loading four river barges at the same time using a flop gate to direct loading. The tripper belt operates on each side of the deckhouse and typically loads 950 or 1,030 ton coal barges on the downriver or upriver side at a rate of approximately 1,000 tons per hour. The working harbor is 1.1 miles in length, typically consisting of approximately 60 loaded and empty barges, and a harbor towboat located on the Monongahela River.

On a typical day, the John L. Rozance, river towboat, floats six empty barges south from Fort Martin and Hatfield power plants to the loadout facility. The barges are stored upriver of the facility with the empty fleet. The Donna Lee II, harbor towboat, maneuvers and places the empty barges under and through the loadout facility. Once the empty barges are under the loadout, the computerized system loads four barges simultaneously. The loaded barges are gaged and placed by pairs into the loaded fleet downriver from the loadout facility by the Donna Lee II. Loaded and empty barges are usually tied off to cells (concrete columns placed at the waters' edge) or to other barges already moored to cells. The loaded and empty fleet is maintained in mooring to a maximum of five barges abreast.

Barges moored in the loaded fleet are ready to be transported to the end use customer. Transport is provided by the John L. Rozance which floats either a three abreast by two deep barge configuration or a three abreast by three deep configuration down river to the Hatfield or Fort Martin power plants.

A regular Safety and Health Inspection of the mine was in progress at the time of the accident. The last regular Safety and Health Inspection was completed on December 20, 1995.

The company officials are listed below:
William Karis......................President
Wes McDonald..................Vice President
John Higgins.......................General Superintendent
Robert Gross......................Safety Supervisor


On January 24, 1996, at 4:00 p.m., the afternoon shift at Humphrey No. 7 River Loadout Facility began operations. Arlie N. Humphreys, Riverman, William King, Jr., Riverman, and James A. Cowell, Sr., victim, a day shift Riverman, began the afternoon shift. King and Cowell, examined the barge diagram board while Humphreys traveled to the river to gauge the barges. Grant Lester Bowers, Sr., Boat Pilot, arrived at the harbor towboat, Donna Lee II, to find Cowell, already aboard. They determined that loaded coal barge number 923 had to be moved.

Bowers maneuvered the boat bow first to barge 923 with the intent of swinging the stern to flatten out against the barge. Cowell was standing on the bow preparing to throw a line onto the half- bit (center) timberhead of the barge. Bowers then observed Cowell throw the line and fall from the boat into the water. Bowers traveled to the bow and immediately realized that he could not provide assistance. Bowers then contacted mine personnel by radio for help. Bowers found that he could not maneuver the boat away from the victim because of the strong current and the line attached from the boat to the timberhead of the barge.

King, who was in the loadout control room, heard the call for help from Bowers, and contacted emergency personnel by telephone. Humphreys also heard the call for help as did Michael T. Somales, captain of the John L. Rozance, a River Division towboat which was approximately 400 feet south of the accident site. Humphreys proceeded across the barges to the Rozance. Once Humphreys was aboard the Rozance, Somales maneuvered the boat to a position from which the victim could be recovered. As first aid and CPR were administered to the victim, the Rozance immediately proceeded to shore where the victim was transferred to a Monongalia EMS ambulance and transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. Dr. Frederick C. Blum, Emergency Room Physician, pronounced Cowell dead at 5:20 p.m.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence:
  1. Riverman Task Training of James A. Cowell, Sr. included: working lines, handling materials, facing-up, proper use of wire rigging, moving barge to load-out and set-up, gaging during and after loading, precautions to gaging, placing empties in harbor and securing new empties, maneuvering in the harbor, slack in lines, pinch points, communications with boat operator, avoiding shadows, transition from boat to barge, and wire rigging threaded through chokes and carvels.

  2. Cowell and Bowers were the only persons on board the Donna Lee II at the time of the accident and Bowers was the only eyewitness to the accident.

  3. Cowell was wearing a life vest.

  4. An autopsy was not performed on the victim, James A. Cowell, Sr.; however, indications are that he received multiple traumatic injuries while in the water.

  5. Grant Lester Bowers, Sr. works for Consolidation Coal Company, Humphrey No. 7 Mine out of the Arkwright No. 1 Mine, Consolidation Coal Company, I.D. No. 46-01452, UMWA Local No. 5429. Bowers was licensed by the United States Coast Guard as a towboat pilot on February 2, 1993.

  6. A towboat pilot is licensed to operate the boat during his shift in the harbor. A towboat captain is licensed to operate and control the boat at all times, anywhere in navigable waters.

  7. The harbor is located in the Pt. Marion Pool and is 1.1 miles in length from river marker 97.60 to river marker 96.50 on the Monongahela River. The reference location of the fatal accident is river marker 96.80.

  8. The condition of the Pt. Marion Pool was 10.5 feet high and rising.

  9. The weather at the time of the accident was light rain and sleet with good visibility.

  10. The Donna Lee II, a harbor towboat, typically operates within the 1.1 miles of the harbor moving empty barges from upstream cells to the loadout and loaded barges to downstream cells.

  11. The Donna Lee II is a harbor towboat under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration pursuant to a memorandum of understanding.

  12. The Donna Lee II is a Coast Guard registered uninspected towing vessel official No. CG 907691. An uninspected vessel may be boarded and inspected at any time by the Coast Guard; however, the Coast Guard devotes most of its inspection time to passenger carrying and volatile chemicals carrying vessels.

  13. Handrails and chain are provided at all levels on the starboard, port, and stern sides of the Donna Lee II. No guard has ever been provided on the bow side as it would interfere with the normal operation of the towboat.

  14. The CONSOL Inc. coal barge number 923, official Coast Guard No. 645620, has a capacity of 1,030 tons.

  15. The loaded coal river barge number 923 was in the process of being moved in preparation to maximize the loaded coal barge fleet in the harbor to five abreast with similar capacity barges (1,030 tons).

  16. The John L. Rozance, a river towboat leased to Twin Rivers Towing Company floats empty barges to the harbor and takes loaded barges to market. During high water conditions the Rozance also helps maintain the harbor fleet in mooring to prevent breakaways.

  17. The John L. Rozance had delivered a float (trip) of empty barges to the harbor and was scheduled to pick up a float of loaded barges on January 24, 1996. However, the Rozance was stationed in the harbor because of high water conditions to keep the fleet in mooring and prevent breakaways.

  18. The Twin Rivers Towing Company is a subsidiary of CONSOL Inc. which leases the coal barges and towboats to Twin Rivers. The principle operating officers of Twin Rivers Towing Company are as follows:

    Dave Kreutzer........General Manager River Division
    Randy Lindsey........Operating Manager River Division
    Mike Hughes..........Asst. Operating Manager River Division


Due to the lack of conclusive evidence, it could not be determined why James A. Cowell, Sr. fell into the Monongahela River as he was attempting to secure barge number 923 from the deck of the Donna Lee II.

Respectfully submitted by:

John D. Mehaulic, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Kerry L. George
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ronald L. Wyatt
Mining Engineer

Approved by:

Timothy J. Thompson
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB96C03