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District 4



No. 1 Mine (I.D. 46-08644)
Windfall Coal Company, Inc.
Oceana, Wyoming County, West Virginia

June 12, 1998


Jerry Sumpter
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: August 20, 1998


The No. 1 Mine, Windfall Coal Company, Inc., is located near Oceana, Wyoming County, West Virginia. The mine started development from the surface into the Hernshaw Seam in July 1997. The coal seam averages 44 inches in height. The mine is ventilated by a blowing fan and methane has never been detected. The mine employs 26 persons on two production shifts, operating five and six days a week, utilizing one continuous-mining unit. The mine produces an average of 1500 tons of coal daily. Advance and retreat mining have been performed in this mine. The roof is supported with 48-inch anchor bolts and 36-inch resin-grouted bolts during development, and a combination of roof bolts and posts during retreat mining. At the time of the accident the mine was using a full pillar extraction method.

The principal officers of Windfall Coal Company, Inc., are Dennis Cook, President; Charles Justice, Safety Consultant; Peter Gollihue, Superintendent; and Henry Zielinski, Section Foreman. The last AAA Health and Safety Inspection conducted by MSHA was completed on May 29, 1998.


On Friday, June 12, 1998, at 7:00 a.m., the day shift crew, under the supervision of Henry Zielinski, section foreman, entered the mine and traveled to the 001-0 MMU main working section. Zielinski assigned duties to the section crew and mining began in the No. 2 entry. Mining was conducted in the Nos. 3, 2, and then No. 6 entries, mining lifts left and right from the gob outby. The coal in the No. 1 entry was not mined because of adverse roof conditions, as was the case in the No. 7 entry on the right side. Mining continued without incident until approximately 12:45 p.m. Rick Bailey, roof-bolt-machine operator, and Zielinski were setting roadway and breaker timbers and watching the immediate roof. The continuous-mining machine was trammed outby the pillar blocks being mined from the No. 6 entry to allow room to set the timbers. Barry Brown, scoop operator, brought enough timbers to the No. 6 entry for roof supports. According to Zielinski and Bailey, all timbers were set according to the approved roof-control plan. Two lifts had been removed from the inby end of the No. 6 entry pillars, left and right. Zielinski and Bailey were in the process of setting five breaker timbers for the left lift to be mined from the No. 36 pillar block. Larry Cook was walking into the area to assist Bailey and Zielinski. Bailey and Zielinski heard a timber pop and a piece of the roof fell. Both miners ran to safety, but they could feel a wind gust at their backs. Afterward, they realized that Larry Cook, continuous-mining-machine helper, was caught by a large section of the mine roof. Zielinski and Bailey went back to Cook's location and observed Cook underneath the roof material, pinned to the mine floor.

The roof fall measured approximately 5 feet wide, 12 feet long and 1 to 5 feet thick. Greg Grubb and Herman Patrick heard the roof fall and ran to the accident scene. Patrick yelled and summoned for help from the rest of the section crew. Zielinski and the entire crew assisted with the recovery of the victim. Barry Brown, scoop operator, called Pete Gollihue on the surface, informed him what had happened, and asked him to call an ambulance. According to Zielinski, the victim had a weak pulse. The victim was transported to the surface, where he was given first aid and transported to the Man Appalachian Hospital. The victim was pronounced dead by Dr. Sabat at approximately 2:30 p.m.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 1:20 p.m. on June 12, 1998, that a serious roof fall accident had occurred. MSHA personnel arrived at the mine at 4:00 p.m. A 103(k) order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners. MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training jointly conducted the investigation with assistance of mine management personnel, the miners and representatives of the miners. All parties were briefed by mine management personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident.

On June 12, 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 nine individuals known to have direct knowledge of facts surrounding the accident were conducted in the conference room of the MSHA Field Office in Pineville, WV, on June 15, 1998.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed on June 18, 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 Cook's training records revealed that he had received all required training and had a total of 27 years mining experience.

Roof Control

The approved roof control plan allows the following types of roof bolts to be used at the mine: conventional, fully-grouted resin bolts, mechanical anchor-resin, assisted tension bolt system, point anchor, and tension rebar bolt system.

The mine roof in the area where the accident occurred, as well as other areas of the section, was supported with 42-inch fully-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.

The mining method at the time of the accident consisted of seven entries developed on 50-foot centers advancing and 70-foot centers for crosscuts. The 001-0 MMU section had extracted three rows of pillars and encountered cracks in the immediate roof. A partial pillar was then left in the No. 1 and No. 7 entries while mining the 4 through 7 entries, when the accident occurred. The mine roof is sandstone with the immediate roof ranging from shale to sandstone. The layer of shale roof ranges from four to five feet thick.


  • Breaker posts (timbers) were observed set in accordance with the approved roof-control plan.

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

  • Roadway timbers to the No. 6 entry pillar blocks being mined were not set according to the approved roof-control plan. The investigators observed and measured the roadway timbers, which were an average of 19 feet, 4 inches wide. This was not a contributory violation and was cited separately.

  • Pillar recovery was being done from the right side of the section to the left side of the section.

  • According to the miners interviewed, final pushouts were never mined.

  • The fall of the immediate roof at the accident scene measured 5 feet wide, 12 feet in length, and ranged from 1 to 5 feet in thickness.

  • The entries were developed on 50-foot centers and crosscuts developed on 70-foot centers. The mine roof was bolted with 42-inch fully-grouted resin bolts.

  • This area of the mine had been developed during October 1997.

  • The 001-0 MMU had rooms developed five crosscuts deep on the right side of the section.

  • A panel had been developed and pillared to the left of the mains section.

  • A Joy 14CM15 continuous-mining machine with radio-remote control was being used.

  • The investigation revealed that, with the exception of roadway posts, the approved roof-control plan was being followed and that the proper method of mining pillar lifts was complied with.

  • The outcrop was approximately 400 feet from the accident area; however, investigators do not believe this was a contributing factor to the accident.

  • It was determined during interviews that the employees were knowledgeable in the requirements of the roof-control plan and the required sequence of mining.

  • It was determined during the accident investigation, that prior to the roof fall there were no indications that there were cracks in the roof of the No. 6 entry.


    The accident and resulting fatality occurred because undetected cracks that were not visible were present in the mine roof of the No. 6 entry. As a result, the weakened immediate roof fell prematurely and without warning while miners were installing roadway and breaker posts and preparing the area for mining the next pillar lifts.


    A 103(k) order No. 7160496 was issued to ensure the Health and Safety of the miners. There were no contributing violations of 30 CFR cited during the investigation of the fatal roof fall accident.

    Submitted by:

    Jerry Sumpter
    Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

    Approved by:

    Richard Kline
    Assistant District Manager

    Edwin P. Brady
    District Manager

    Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
    Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98C14