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District 4


Mine No. 1 (ID No. 46-07711)
Eagle Energy, Inc.
Van, Boone County, West Virginia

February 26, 1998


Vaughan Gartin
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Edwin P. Brady, District Manager

Release Date: May 27, 1998



On February 26, 1998, the day shift section crew of the 013-0 MMU 2 North Section entered the mine at 7:00 a.m., under the supervision of Larry Saunders, section foreman. Upon arrival on the section, Saunders traveled across the face areas making routine examinations. After the examinations were completed, the crew was informed where mining activities would commence. The section crew experienced mechanical problems with both continuous-mining machines. One of the continuous-mining machines (CM) being utilized was used as a spare or back-up. After mining the face of the No. 1 entry, and at approximately 2:30 p.m., the CM was trammed outby to the last open-crosscut between the Nos. 1 and 2 entries for maintenance and service work. While the work was being performed, the roof-bolting crew was installing roof bolts in the No. 1 face area. One of the roof-bolter operators stated that sometime during the installation of the four rows of bolts, he heard a thump or bump in the mine roof. Prior to being able to finish bolting procedures the crew had to retrieve more cable for the roof-bolting machine. One of the roof-bolter operators was positioned in front of the cutting drum of the continuous-mining machine looking at the rib and victim, when without warning the rib collapsed, striking the victim in the back and pushing him into the CM. The rib and brow causing the fatal crushing injuries was approximately 13-3/4 inches thick by 17 inches in width and 63 inches in length.


Mine No. 1, Eagle Energy, Inc., is located six miles southeast of Van on Route 26, Boone County, West Virginia. Coal is mined in the Eagle coal seam. Average mining height is 72 inches.

The mine opened in June 1989. Employment is provided for 102 employees on two production shifts and one maintenance shift, with the mine producing coal six days a week. The mine produces an average of 9,000 tons of raw material daily from two producing MMUs, one on advance and one on retreat mining.

The mine was developed from the surface, with a dual compartment track and belt slope entry with the belt conveyor in the top portion and the track in the bottom, for a length of 900 feet. This mine has two shafts. One shaft is a dual compartment both intake and return air. Ventilation is exhausted by a nine-foot Jeffrey fan averaging 495,441 cubic feet of air per minute. The second shaft is an elevator shaft for employees to enter and exit.

Coal is transported from the longwall section to a belt conveyor. On the advancing MMU, coal is transported from the face via Joy 10SC shuttle cars to the section dumping point, then loaded onto a belt conveyor to the surface.


Larry M. Saunders, day shift section foreman for the 013-0 MMU 2 north section, prepared himself and his crew for departure underground. At 7:00 a.m., Saunders and his crew loaded onto the elevator and traveled to the bottom of the elevator shaft, and after unloading, traveled to a battery-powered track-mounted personnel carrier, and traveled to the 2 north section. Arriving at the end of the track, which was located approximately 1,000 feet outby the section dumping point, the crew then proceeded to walk onto the 2 north section. Arriving on the section at 7:30 p.m., Saunders met with Thomas Fisher, third shift foreman, whose crew was on the section moving a belt conveyor. Fisher informed Saunders what still needed to be done and Saunders informed the crew that curtain needed to be hung and ventilation worked on. Saunders, accompanied by Fisher, then proceeded to examine and date up in the face areas of all three entries. After the examinations were conducted, Saunders told the crew that mining would start with the left side continuous-mining machine in the No. 1 entry. Saunders informed William (Teddy) Drake, continuous-mining-machine operator, that he still needed to mine approximately 30 feet to complete this entry. The No. 1 entry contained a lot of rock above the coal seam, which had to be mined also. After mining one shuttle car of coal, the breaker knocked on the shuttle car and a splice was made in the trailing cable. The crew proceeded to move the second continuous-mining machine from the No. 2 entry to the No. 3 entry to mine coal. This section utilizes two Joy continuous-mining machines, one of which is used as a spare or back-up. After the crew started mining in the No. 3 entry, which also had a lot of rock to be mined with the coal, the continuous-mining machine broke a torque shaft. At this time, the shuttle car on the left side had been repaired and mining then resumed in the No. 1 entry. While mining was in progress, the hydraulic hose on the right side gathering head jack of the continuous-mining machine, burst and was replaced. This process of equipment breakdown and repair work being performed continued until around lunch time. The section had advanced 35 to 40 feet. During the breakdowns the crew did other work on the section, which is required on a daily basis, such as installation of ventilation controls, etc. The right side continuous-mining machine was moved to the No. 2 entry and mined the first cut out of the crosscut to the right. The continuous-mining machine was then moved back to the No. 3 entry and service work performed. Also, the left side miner was moved back into the No. 1 entry. While the roof-bolt-machine crew was bolting the No. 2 entry crosscut right, mining was being conducted in the No. 1 entry, which started around 12:30 p.m. At approximately 2:00 p.m., Saunders traveled through the last open crosscut conducting his pre-shift examinations for the oncoming shift, noting that no abnormal rib conditions were observed in the crosscut. After the bolting crew bolted the No. 2 entry, they moved the roof bolter to the No. 1 entry. Mining the No. 1 entry took approximately two hours due to the cutting of the rock above the coal seam and the need to replace bits. At approximately 2:30 p.m., the continuous-mining machine was trammed back into the last open crosscut between Nos. 1 and 2 entries. This allowed the roof bolter to go into the face area of the No. 1 entry to install roof bolts, while the continuous-mining machine was located in the crosscut where maintenance and service work was being performed. Sometime during the bolting sequence and installation of four rows of bolts, one roof-bolt operator stated that he had heard a thump or bump in the mine roof. Thumps or bumps had been heard on previous shifts and were heard during this investigation. After installation of the fourth row of bolts, the roof-bolt crew, which consisted of Richard Short and Jack Price, realized that they were short of trailing cable and would have to go back and obtain more cable from slack outby. Short, while positioned in front of the cutting drum of the Joy 14CM15 continuous-mining machine, observed the rib and/or brow and Doug Kerns, the victim. Without warning, at approximately 3:00 p.m., the rib and/or brow collapsed, striking Kerns in the back and pushing him into the frame of the continuous-mining machine. Kenneth Hill, electrician, and William Drake, continuous-mining-machine operator, were also performing service work in this area around the machine. Drake went to the No. 2 entry to find Larry Saunders, section foreman, and informed him that an accident had occurred. Short checked Kerns for any vital signs and none were found. It took three or four employees to remove the rock, which was 13-3/4 inches thick by 17 inches in width and 63 inches in length, off of the victim. After removal of rock, Saunders checked again for vital signs and again none were found. Saunders informed one of the employees to obtain first-aid supplies and the scoop with an emergency car for transportation. Saunders notified the dispatcher on the surface of the accident, who in turn contacted 911 Emergency. The victim was prepared for transportation, loaded onto a scoop, transported to the end of the track entry, and reloaded onto a battery-powered personnel carrier. The victim was then transported to the surface. After the victim arrived on the surface he was placed in the care of the Boone County Ambulance Authority and transported to the Boone Memorial Hospital, Madison, West Virginia, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. During interviews, Short, roof-bolter operator, stated that prior to the accident when he trammed the roof bolter through the crosscut, he did not observe any unusual or abnormal rib conditions. Also, other employees interviewed stated that they were aware of rib conditions on this section and were constantly pulling ribs down. It was routine to travel the center of the entries due to rib conditions encountered on this section and throughout the entire mine.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was notified at 3:15 p.m. on February 26, 1998, that a fatal roof/rib fall accident had occurred. MSHA personnel arrived at the mine at 4:25 p.m. A 103(k) order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners.

MSHA District 4 and the West Virginia Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management personnel, the miners, representatives of the miners, and representatives from the MSHA Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center.

All parties were briefed by mine management personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident.

On February 26 and 27, 1998, representatives from all parties conducted the on-site portion of the investigation. Photographs were taken and relevant measurements were made of the accident scene.

Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the Eagle Energy, Inc., Mine No. 1 office complex, at Van, West Virginia, on February 27, 1998.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed February 27, 1998, and the 103(k) order was terminated.



Records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.

An examination of Mr. Kerns' training records revealed that he had received all required training.

Roof Control

The approved roof-control plan allows the following types of roof bolts to be used at this mine: full grout bolt, tension grout bolt system, combination bolt system, and conventional bolts as supplemental support.

The mine roof in the area where the accident occurred, as well as other areas on the section, was supported with 48-inch resin-grouted bolts.

The roof bolts were installed on four to five foot crosswise and four foot lengthwise spacing, as required by the approved roof-control plan.

Entries and crosscuts were developed 20 feet wide in accordance with the approved roof-control plan.

Joy 14CM15 remote control continuous-mining machines were utilized.

Physical Factors

The overall length of the rib fall at the accident site measured 26 feet long and 13-3/4 to 16 inches thick by 12 to 40 inches in height.

This section was a three entry system being developed for a longwall system.

The pillars on this section were on 120 by 100 foot centers.

The mine roof was bolted with four-foot resin-grouted bolts.

Other areas on this section were observed to have loose, unconsolidated ribs. These conditions were cited on a separate inspection activity and did not directly contribute to the accident.

The overburden of 800 to 1200 feet, and coal height of six to ten feet, generated pressure which was seen as rib sloughage and instability in this area.

The failed rib near the rib/roof interface was composed of approximately 18 inches of dark grey, thinly laminated, sandy shale, and the rest of the rib was approximately six foot of coal.

Beginning three crosscuts outby the accident site at Break 25, the rider coal seam appears to have pinched out and the company was mining under the binder material.

The section at this location appears to be going through a geological transition zone.

The Joy 14CM15 radio-remote continuous-mining machine was positioned in a crosscut to do maintenance and service work.


The fatal accident occurred as a result of a roof/rib fall. A combination of factors could have attributed to the rib collapse: (1) the mining of the binder material, which consisted of one to two feet of a dark grey laminated sandy shale, making the mining height on the 2 north section between six to ten feet in height, and (2) the overburden above this section was approximately 800 to 1200 feet with either horizontal stress or differential vertical stress present, causing instability.


A 103(k) order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until an accident investigation could be completed.

There were no contributing violations of 30 CFR cited during the investigation of the fatal roof/rib fall accident.

Submitted by:

Vaughan Gartin
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager
  for Technical Programs

Edwin P. Brady
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98C06