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District 4



Surface No. 1 (I.D. No. 46-08249)
Stollings Trucking Co., Inc.
Island Fork Construction LTD (I.D. No. PUL)
Amherstdale, Logan County, West Virginia

July 29, 1997


Roger Richmond
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ernie Ross, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr., District Manager

Release Date: October 16, 1997


The Surface No. 1 Mine is operated by Stollings Trucking Co., Inc. The mine is located along Route 14 at the top of Kelly Mountain near Amherstdale, Logan County, West Virginia.

The mine began operation in January 1993 and is currently producing 700 tons of coal daily from the Coalburg, Stockton, and 5-Block coal seams. Contour-type mining is being performed. The coal is transported from the mine to the Catenary Coal Company, Paint Creek Terminal, where it is processed and shipped to various locations.

Employment is provided for 18 persons, 16 of which are employees of Island Fork Construction LTD, an independent contractor providing labor and a foreman to the production operator. Coal production is performed on the day shift and maintenance is performed on the evening shift.

The miners are not members of a labor organization.

The principal officers of Stollings Trucking Co., Inc., are Timothy Marcum, President, and Ernest W. Marcum, Secretary. The principal officers of Island Fork Construction LTD are Amon Mahon, President, and Len Mahon, Safety Director. The mineral rights at the Stollings Trucking Co., Inc., No. 1 Surface Mine, are owned by Arkland Company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Arch Coal, Inc.

The last Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Inspection (AAA) was completed on March 7, 1997, at this surface mine.


On Tuesday, July 29, 1997, the day shift began work at the regular time of 7:00 a.m. William Dean Toler, superintendent for Stollings Trucking Co., Inc., started his shift at 5:30 a.m. and conducted the preshift examinations. Prior to the beginning of the shift, James Queen, excavator operator, informed Toler that the hydraulic pumps on the excavator were squalling. Toler instructed the mechanic to get the necessary filters to correct the condition.

Hershel Carter, pit foreman for Island Fork Construction LTD, arrived at the pit about 6:05 a.m. and started loading trucks with coal about 6:15 a.m. About 10:00 a.m., Carter met with Toler to examine the spoil where Queen was working. When Carter and Toler arrived at the spoil, the excavator was being repaired. After examining the spoil area, Carter went back to load trucks and run a dozer over the haulage road. Toler went to the office to report the condition of the spoil to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (D.E.P.) and gather parts. The D.E.P. required that the loose rocks be buried.

Thomas E. Maynard, dozer operator, started working in the production pit at 7:00 a.m. Maynard worked the shot area, in the pit, until 2:30 p.m., then drove to the spoil area where Queen was working. Queen motioned for Maynard to come down to his location, where he was constructing a road across the spoil in order to secure and bury any loose rocks that were lying on the spoil. Queen asked Maynard for his opinion on how he might cut the road around the slope. After talking with Queen, Maynard went back to the top of the spoil. He observed that Queen was having difficulty getting the excavator to tram forward or backward. Large rocks were lying in front of and behind the excavator. Maynard stated that the upslope-side track of the excavator was on top of three large rocks which were lying behind the excavator. The excavator at that time was teetering with the counterweight positioned downslope. Queen attempted to grab the ground with the bucket on the upslope of the spoil. Maynard stated that when the bucket contacted the ground, the excavator continued to teeter backward and overturned and slid to the bottom of the downslope approximately 60 feet in length. The excavator came to a stop about 60 feet below the location where Queen had been working.

Maynard contacted the loader operator by CB radio for help and then went over the slope where the excavator was lying on its top. Maynard observed the victim lying under the cab of the excavator. He then turned the excavator off and, after looking around, climbed back to the top of the spoil where he met fellow workers coming to help. Carter received word of the accident about 3:15 p.m. and proceeded to the site. Toler picked up first-aid equipment and traveled to the site. Toler checked Queen, who was underneath the cab of the machine, for vital signs and found none. Queen was removed from the site via stretcher (basket) and was then lifted to the top of the slope by ropes. Queen was transported by the Logan County Ambulance Authority to Logan General Hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Gosien.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 3:30 p.m. on July 29, 1997, that a fatal accident had occurred, and MSHA personnel arrived at the mine within the hour. A 103(k) order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until the accident investigation could be completed.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted an investigation with the assistance of the production operator, independent contractor, and their employees.

All parties were briefed by the mine operator as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. A discussion was held with everyone available who had knowledge of the accident. Representatives of all parties traveled to the accident scene, where a thorough examination was conducted. Photographs and relevant measurements were taken and sketches were made at the accident site. Interviews of individuals known to have knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted in the conference room at MSHA's Logan Field Office on July 30, 1997.

The investigation team returned to the mine on August 4, 1997, and conducted an examination of the excavator which had been uprighted and moved to a safer location. The physical portion of the investigation was completed, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.



A review of the mine records and interviews with the miners indicated that requisite training had been provided for the miners and foremen employed at this mine.


A review of the mine records indicated that the required examinations were being conducted in accordance with Part 77, Title 30 CFR.

Physical Factors
  1. The equipment involved in the accident was a Caterpillar 215C Excavator, Serial No. 4HG01614. The excavator was examined after it had been removed from the accident site. The examination did not reveal any safety defects that may have contributed to the accident; however, the excavator was extensively damaged as it was being recovered from the accident site. Excavators are not required to have roll-over protection.

  2. The road across the spoil was being constructed approximately 8-1/2 to 10 feet in width.

  3. The rocks in the road that the excavator trammed onto measured approximately 5 feet in length, 2-1/2 feet in width, and 2 feet in height.

  4. It could not be determined if the victim had buckled the seat belt before the accident occurred. The victim may have unbuckled the seat belt and attempted to jump as the excavator slowly overturned. Toler and fellow workers stated that Queen was known to be an avid seat belt wearer. Maynard stated that after his conversation with Queen, however, he did not notice if he had put his seat belt on after starting back to work. Examination of the seat belt revealed that it was in good working order and appeared to have been worn frequently.

  5. The downward pressure of the bucket and boom on the ground assisted in the excavator overturning.

  6. The weather was clear and visibility was good.

  7. Communication in the excavator was provided by CB radio.

  8. Thomas Maynard witnessed the accident.

  9. During interviews, it was revealed that the excavator operator was having difficulty going forward or backward due to the large rocks in front of and behind the excavator.

  10. The excavator boom could not be swung 360 degrees due to the nearby trees.

  11. The undercarriage and cats on the excavator were recently replaced.

  12. New hydraulic filters were installed prior to the beginning of operations that day.

  13. The ground was damp from rain the night before.

  14. The victim had about 5 years total mining experience, with 1 year and 2 months at this mine. The victim had approximately 5 years experience as an excavator operator.

  15. The accident occurred around 3:00 p.m. while the victim was constructing a roadway along the reclaimed area of the No. 4 pit to cover loose rocks in the reclaimed area.

  16. According to Toler and Carter, the victim had performed this task on several occasions prior to the day of the accident.


The accident and resultant fatality occurred when the victim trammed the excavator onto large rocks in the road which caused the excavator to cant toward the downslope. The victim then lowered the excavator bucket to the uphill slope which caused the excavator to overturn. The victim either did not have the seat belt fastened or unfastened the seat belt as the excavator overturned. The victim jumped or was ejected from the cab of the excavator and was crushed between the cab and the ground.


A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until the accident investigation could be completed. There were no contributing violations of 30 CFR observed.

Respectfully submitted by:

Roger Richmond
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Ernie Ross, Jr.
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager

Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB97C20