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District 8

(Shaft Construction Underground Coal Mine)

(Mine Shaft)

Amax Coal Company
Wabash Mine ( ID 11-00877)

Gunther-Nash Mining Const. Co.
Contractor ID No. (B08)
Keensburg, Wabash County, Illinois

May 17, 1996


Michael D. Rennie
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Kenneth S. Champley
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

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


Wabash mine (I.D. No. 11-00877) is located approximately seven miles south of Mt. Carmel, Illinois, on State Route No. 1, and one mile east on the Beall Woods Road. Amax Coal Company is a subsidiary of Cyprus Amax Industries, Inc., 9100 East Mineral Circle, Englewood, Colorado 80112-3299. The mine is opened into the Illinois No. 5 Coal Seam by two air shafts, two elevator shafts, and a slope. The mine currently operates seven mechanized mining units and two bridge-type continuous haulage systems. The mine produces approximately 16,348 tons of coal daily on three production shifts. Coal is removed from the mine by a series of conveyor belts to the slope bottom. The coal is then conveyed to the surface by the use of a slope belt to the raw coal stackers, and then conveyed to the preparation plant for processing.

Gunther-Nash Mining Const. Co., Contractor I.D. B08, of St. Louis, Missouri, was awarded a contract in late 1995 by Cyprus Amax Industries, Inc. for the purpose of sinking the No. 5 air-shaft, an 18-foot diameter concrete shaft approximately 821 feet in depth to the Illinois No. 5 Coal Seam.

Principal officials of the Wabash Mine at the time of the accident were:
Mike McGolden...............................Mine Manager
Charles Burggraf...............................Manager, Health and Safety
Al Roth.............................................Engineering Manager

Principal officials of Gunther-Nash Mining Const. Co. at the time of the accident were:
Joseph Melcher.................................President
Jim Brendel.......................................Vice-President
Stephen P. Ambra.............................Project Manager
Albert Rollan Gonz............................Superintendent

The last MSHA Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was completed on March 28, 1996. The current MSHA Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) began on April 1, 1996, and was ongoing at the time of the accident.


On May 17,1996, at approximately 4:00 p.m., the Gunther-Nash Mining Const. Co.'s six-man afternoon shift crew began their work duties. The day's activities consisted of Sam Parkhill, Miner-Driller, and Steve Heath, Miner-Driller/Carpenter, performing carpentry work on the building that will house the hoisting unit for shaft sinking operations at the No. 5 air/man shaft. Work for the foundation platform that will support the head frame, closing doors, etc.. (surface structures), was being performed by James M. Horn, Topman; Monty R. Wilson, Miner-Driller; Victor P. Wunderlich, Hoistman; and Albert Rollan Gonz, Superintendent. Work had taken place on the platform, approximately 38 feet 6 inches long by 27 feet 9 inches wide, on the ground next to the shaft opening. Automatic air doors had also been fitted in the center of the platform while the platform was on the ground. The doors are part of the decking that will prevent anyone or material from falling into the shaft opening during the sinking process. The platform was then hoisted by an American Model 7250 crawler crane, positioned over the 18-foot shaft opening, and bolted into place.

The crew was then instructed by Gonz to proceed adding decking to the platform. A piece of decking measuring approximately 11 feet 4 inches wide by 7 feet in length, was lowered into place and was being positioned behind the west air door. At approximately 11:30 p.m., Kelly G. McIntosh, 3rd Shift Foreman (victim), was observed crossing the safety fence from the north side of the platform. McIntosh stepped onto the work platform where he assisted Horn in positioning that piece of decking. After having a short conversation with Horn, McIntosh proceeded to exit the platform in a southwesterly direction. He stepped off the H-beam, lost his footing and slid down the concrete wind sweep into the shaft. He fell approximately 140 feet onto a steel work platform located at the shaft bottom. Wilson was immediately sent to call for emergency help and to notify the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals. The Wabash County Ambulance Service and the Wabash County Sheriff were dispatched to the scene at 11:56 p.m. to begin recovery efforts. To facilitate the recovery efforts, the South air door was placed in an open position and secured in place and the North door was removed to allow for entry into the shaft. Emergency Medical Technician Tamora Sunstrum, Jeff Hinderliter, White County Sheriff, and Albert Gonz, Gunther Nash Superintendent, then entered the shaft and traveled down to were the victim was located. After determining that there were no apparent signs of life, Sunstrum radioed for the coroner. Wabash County Deputy Coroner Craig Racster traveled into the shaft and pronounced McIntosh dead at the scene.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence:
  1. The construction of the No. 5 air-shaft had begun in December 1995.

  2. Due to the surrounding strata being an unconsolidated sand and clay mixture, the first 150 feet of the shaft was frozen prior to any excavation being made. The freezing of the surrounding strata started in December 1995 and was completed on February 20, 1996.

  3. The first 150 feet of the shaft was developed and the concrete wall was installed and completed on May 13, 1996. After the concrete was poured, the shaft cover and head-frame could be installed.

  4. Installation of the steel support structure, access doors, and plate steel to cover the shaft was ongoing at the time of the accident.

  5. The outer areas of the shaft were open between the shaft wall and the metal support beams.

  6. The steel work deck was located at the bottom of the shaft. Cables to raise and lower the work deck were disconnected pending installation of the shaft cover platform.

  7. The concrete collar of the air-shaft was formed with a 3-1/2 foot radius rounded air sweep.

  8. The victim and one other worker were working over the shaft, although other acceptable means were not provided to prevent persons from falling down the shaft.

  9. The victim had a total of seven years mining experience. He had worked at this site for a total of two months and had been a foreman for a total of two weeks.

  10. The victim was the midnight (3rd) shift foreman, and had reported to work at approximately 11:30 p.m.

  11. The victim lost his footing and fell 140 feet down the shaft to the steel work deck located at the bottom of the shaft.

  12. Illumination of the area was provided by two stationary mercury vapor lights and one portable quartz halogen light, located to the northeast side of the shaft. One person was also wearing a cap light.

  13. On May 22, 1996, the illumination of the shaft area was evaluated under the conditions which existed at the time of the accident. Although there were some shadowed areas, it was determined that adequate illumination was provided.


The accident occurred because the area around the mine shaft was not fully covered while persons were performing work around and above the shaft. Upon exiting the platform, the victim fell approximately 140 feet down the shaft, resulting in fatal injuries. The resultant fatal injuries occurred because the victim, although wearing a safety-belt and tag-line, was not properly attached, nor were other acceptable means provided to prevent persons from falling down the shaft when work was being performed over the shaft.


  1. A 103(k) Order No. 4265518 was issued to ensure the safety of all workers at the No. 5 air shaft.

  2. A 104(d)(1) Citation No. 4263749 was issued on for a violation of 30 CFR Section 77.1908 (o). Other acceptable means were not provided to prevent persons from falling down the shaft when work was performed over the shaft.

Respectfully submitted by:

Kenneth S. Champley
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

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 FAB96C17