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District 4



No. 1 Mine (ID No. 46-08702)
Unique Mining, Inc.
Davin, Logan County, West Virginia

August 8, 1998


Jerry Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Charles W. Cline
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: October 19, 1998


Unique Mining, Inc., Mine No. 1, ID No. 46-08702, is located near Davin, Logan County, West Virginia. The principal officers are as follows: Peter Gollihue, President; Larry Brown (victim), Secretary/Treasurer; Tom Rasnake, Consultant; and Charlie Justice, Safety Manager. The owners of Unique Mining, Inc., are Peter Gollihue with two-thirds ownership and Dennis Cook with one-third ownership, as reported by Robert Toler, CPA.

The mine employs 22 persons underground on two 8-hour production shifts, 5 to 6 days per week, and produces an average of 800 tons of coal daily from one continuous-mining section. Coal was transported from the section to the surface using shuttle cars. The miners enter the No. 2 Gas coalbed via rubber-tired mantrip. The immediate roof is comprised of shale and is supported with 4-foot fully-grouted resin rods. Ventilation is induced into the mine by a 5-foot blowing fan which produces about 70,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The mine does not have detectable methane liberations.

The mine was opened by 4 drift openings on July 21, 1998, and had advanced 4 crosscuts underground.

A regular safety and health (AAA) inspection was started by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on August 6, 1998, and was ongoing at the time of the accident.


The production crew for the 001-0 MMU working section entered the mine at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 8, 1998. The crew was supervised by Pete Gollihue, President/Superintendent/Mine Foreman/Section Foreman. Larry Brown (victim), Secretary/Treasurer of Unique Mining, Inc., operated the Lee Norse TD1-31 single-head roof-bolting machine. Doug Brown (victim's brother) and William Toler operated the double-head Long Airdox roof-bolting machine. The Joy 14CM-10, radio-remote control continuous-mining machine was operated by William Johnson and the two Joy 21 shuttle cars were operated by Gregg Grubb and Barry Brown (also victim's brother). Ernest Webb was the section electrician.

The production crew arrived at the 001-0 MMU working section at 7:15 a.m. Gollihue discussed assigned work duties and proceeded to examine the working section. Gollihue examined each working face for hazardous conditions and measured the velocity of the air current in the last open crosscut and in the No. 1 and No. 2 entries. He then returned to the dinner hole and informed the crew members as to the location of the face equipment.

The following mining sequence was commenced: the continuous miner first cut in the No. 4 right crosscut, then No. 3, No. 2, No. 1, No. 4, No. 1, and No. 4 entry faces without incident. Doug Brown and Toler were experiencing problems with the dust collection system on the double-head Long Airdox roof-bolting machine. The section power center had not been moved underground and the double-head roof-bolting machine did not have enough cable to reach all the faces. According to both roof-bolt-machine operators (double-head), they did not have enough trailing cable to bolt the outside places, Nos. 1 & 2 and No. 7 faces. Gollihue instructed Larry Brown to start using the Lee Norse single-head roof-bolting machine. Larry Brown bolted the No. 1 face, moved the roof-bolting machine to the No. 2 face, and bolted it. Johnson, continuous-mining-machine operator, then cut the face of the No.1 entry. Larry Brown trammed the roof-bolting machine back to the No. 1 face. Meanwhile, Gollihue telephoned outside to Webb, the chief electrician, and instructed him to bring some hydraulic oil and resin glue to Brown's roof-bolting machine. Webb arrived in the No. 2 entry, and for approximately 10 minutes could hear the single-head roof-bolting machine running. At approximately 2:00 p.m., he heard roof rock falling from the No. 1 entry and the roof-bolting machine stopped operating. Webb ran towards the entry and heard Larry Brown calling for help. Webb found Larry Brown (victim) lying against the front of the roof-bolting machine in the sitting position. Brown's left leg and foot were pinned underneath the fallen material and his upper torso and head were against the front drill operating controls. Webb immediately called for assistance from the rest of the section crew. Gollihue was walking from the No. 4 face towards the No. 1 face when he heard someone calling for help. Tom Rasnake, consultant, was on the surface when the outside surface man, Rodney Lusk, received the telephone call from underground. Lusk informed Rasnake of the accident and Rasnake immediately traveled to the accident scene.

Upon his arrival, Rasnake observed that the victim's breathing was shallow and began administering mouth to mouth resuscitation. Larry Brown was taken to the surface and transported to Man Appalachian Regional Hospital by Southern Regional Ambulance Service. Brown was pronounced dead on arrival at 3:30 p.m. by attending physician, Dr. Edward E. Stewart.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 2:55 p.m. on August 8, 1998, that a possible fatal roof-fall accident had occurred. MSHA personnel began to arrive at the mine at 6:30 p.m. 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 the investigation with the assistance of mine management personnel and the miners.

All parties were briefed by mine management personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. Representatives from all parties traveled to the accident scene where an examination was conducted. Photographs, video recordings, sketches, and relevant measurements were taken at the accident site on August 8 and 10, 1998.

Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the Pineville, West Virginia, MSHA field office conference room on August 13, 1998.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed on August 18, 1998, and the 103(k) order was terminated.



Records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with Part 48, 30 CFR. An examination of Larry Brown's training records revealed that he had received all required training. Brown had received newly employed and annual refresher training on July 21, 1998. Testimony indicated that Larry Brown had approximately 20 years mining experience as a roof-bolting-machine operator.

Roof Control

The immediate mine roof at the accident scene consisted of 2 feet of shale and 16 feet blue shale. The No. 2 Gas coal seam is 50 inches thick and the mine floor was comprised of 10 feet of sandstone. The mining height in the No. 1 entry was 70 inches.

The immediate roof in the accident area was supported with 4-foot resin-grouted rods supplemented with 6-inch x 6-inch bearing plates installed on 4-foot lengthwise and 4 to 5-foot crosswise spacing. The depth of cover over the coal bed was approximately 600 feet at the accident site. The mine floor was wet; however, the mine roof and ribs were relatively dry at the accident site.

There was no indication of excessive pressure on the pillars in the immediate area. The immediate mine roof was drummy at intermittent locations within the 001-0 MMU working section. The piece of rock that fell, fatally injuring Brown, was 12 feet in length, 8 feet in width, and 0 to 12 inches in thickness.

All persons interviewed indicated that they had been instructed by mine officials not to work inby roof supports. The roof-control plan requires the roof-bolter operator on a single-head roof bolter to install roof supports from left to right. The victim was installing roof supports from right to left. When roof bolts are installed from the right side of the entry to the left side, the roof-bolting-machine operator is positioned beneath unsupported roof.

Peter Gollihue and Larry Brown were officers of Unique Mining, Inc., and Tom Rasnake was a consultant and owned the equipment. This mine was opened on or about July 21, 1998, and was approximately 200 feet underground. On August 6, 1998, a violation was written for taking deep-cuts in excess of the 20-foot cut allowed in the roof-control plan. On August 8, 1998, in the entry where the accident occurred and other entries on the section, deep-cuts in excess of 20 feet were observed. In addition, the No. 1 entry face had been cut 29 feet in depth, yielding an area of excessively exposed roof. The sequence of mining in the No. 1 entry indicates that the mining cycle was not being followed. The observation of the installed bolting pattern, the amount of gob by the left side of the entry, and the way the face was cut, all indicate that the mining was off cycle. Mining cuts were being made which caused ribs and intersections to be irregular. The improper cleaning of the loose material in the No. 1 entry prevented the roof bolter from installing roof bolts on the left side of the entry. Also, the single-head-roof bolter did not have a canopy installed which would have provided some protection for the roof-bolter operator.


  • The mining height at the scene of the accident was 70 inches.

  • The accident occurred in the No. 1 entry face approximately 200 feet inby the main drift openings.

  • The mine roof in the accident area was supported with 4-foot resin rods on 4 to 5-foot centers.

  • The roof-bolting machine in use was a single-head Lee Norse TD1-31 and was not equipped with a canopy nor a certification on the ATRS.

  • There were no eye witnesses when the accident occurred.

  • The portion of rock which struck the victim measured 12 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 0-12 inches thick.

  • A preshift and on-shift examination had been made on the 001-0 MMU working section and recorded in the proper examiners' book kept on the surface. There were no hazards indicated in the book.

  • The victim was not installing roof bolts in the proper sequence in accordance with the approved roof-control plan. The victim was installing roof supports from right to left and was exposed to an unsupported roof area measured at 29 feet in length and approximately 12 feet in width at the accident location. As can be seen in the sketch, bolts had been installed on the right side of the entry and a hole had been drilled inby, on the right side. This indicates an improper bolting sequence.

  • According to persons interviewed, Larry Brown had bolted the No. 1 entry early in the shift and was in the process of bolting the No. 1 face for the second time when the accident occurred. Based on physical evidence, the victim had drilled a 47-inch deep hole in the roof on the right rib side.

  • A roof-bolt wrench was observed lying under the roof rock that fell on the victim, indicating that he was in the process of installing a roof bolt.

  • The victim was found in the sitting position leaning against the front drilling controls and received injuries to his body and both legs.

  • The single-head-roof bolter was not provided with a canopy, which is required in this height coal seam, to protect the operator from roof falls. Observations of the accident scene and location of the fallen roof material indicated that a proper canopy would have provided protection from the falling roof.

  • This mine had been cited for mining a deep-cut in excess of 20 feet on August 6, 1998. At the time of the fatality, the mine operator was continuing to take extended cuts beyond the maximum distance of 20 feet specified in the roof-control plan.


    The accident and resultant death occurred because an unsafe and improper sequence was used to install roof bolts while utilizing a single-head roof-bolting machine. Roof bolts were installed beginning on the right side of the entry and bolting to the left. This roof bolt installation sequence resulted in the roof-bolting-machine operator's body being positioned beneath unsupported roof with the roof-bolting-machine operator's back to the unsupported area. Also contributing to the accident was the absence of a canopy installed on the roof-bolting machine that would provide the machine's operator with overhead protection at the drilling controls. Further, a 29-foot deep-cut had been mined in the accident area, resulting in exposed roof in the No. 1 entry which may have resulted in a weakening of the roof strata.


    A 104d-1 citation No. 7160503 was issued, stating in part that Larry Brown was roof bolting inby the last row of roof supports, exposing himself to unsupported roof. This violation was a contributing factor to the fatal accident.

    A 104d-1 order No. 7160505 was issued, stating in part that the victim was installing roof supports out of sequence with a single-head roof-bolting machine. The length of unsupported roof was 29 feet and the width was 8 to 12 feet. This violation was a contributing factor to the fatal accident.

    A 104d-1 order No. 4203791 was issued, stating in part that the single-head Lee Norse roof-bolting machine was not provided with a canopy over the drill controls to protect the operator from roof falls. This violation was a contributing factor to the fatal accident.

    A 104d-1 order No. 4203792 was issued, stating in part that the continuous-mining machine had cut a depth of 29 feet in the No. 1 working face. The approved plan allows 20 feet in depth. This violation was a contributing factor to the fatal accident.

    A 103(k) order No. 7160500 was issued to ensure the health and safety of the miners until the investigation could be completed.

    Submitted by:

    Jerry Sumpter
    Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

    Charles W. Cline
    Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
    (Roof Control)

    Approved by:

    Richard J. Kline
    Assistant District Manager

    Edwin P. Brady
    District Manager

    Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
    Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98C18