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Accident Investigation Report
(Underground Coal Mine)


No. 4 Mine (I.D. No. 01-01247)
Jim Walter Resources, Incorporated
Brookwood, Tuscaloosa County , Alabama

May 7, 1999


Charles T. Langley
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

John M. Church
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 213, Birmingham, Alabama 35209
Frank C. Young, Jr., District Manager


At approximately 2:30 a.m. , May 7, 1999, a fatal accident occurred in the underground bunker area of the mine. The victim, David A. Griffin, a mine electrician with 25 years of mining experience, was fatally injured when he fell into a thirty-six (36) inch ventilation shaft. He was in the process of washing a coal storage bunker area with a high pressure water hose prior to the accident. The victim was pronounced dead underground at approximately 4:12 a.m. by Life Flight Physician, Dr. Boyett. There were no witnesses to the accident.


Jim Walter Resources, Inc. No. 4 Mine, I.D. No. 01-01247, is located at 14730 Lock 17 Road, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, approximately eight (8) miles from the city of Brookwood on State Route 216. The mine was put into production on June 1, 1977. The mine operates in the Blue Creek Coal Seam at a depth of 2,240 feet from the surface and has an average mining height of 107 inches. The mine presently has seven (7) shaft openings, five (5) serve as intakes and two (2) as exhausts. The latest laboratory analysis of return air samples at the fans indicate a total methane liberation of 11,050,788 cubic feet per day. The ventilation provided by the two (2) exhausting fans total 3,265,255 cubic feet per minute of air.

The mine operates three (3) shifts per day, seven (7) days per week, producing approximately 16,500 raw tons of coal per day from four (4) continuous mining and two (2) longwall sections. Four (4) continuous miner sections are ventilated using double split and exhausting line brattice.

Two (2) longwall sections are provided with a flow-through bleeder system. The Ventilation Plan in effect at the time of the accident was approved by the District Manager on March 19, 1999. The training plan was approved on July 6, 1998.

Employment is provided for 397 underground and 97 surface employees. Coal is transported to the 4-2 production shaft via belt conveyors and out of the mine by hoist driven skip cars. Diesel powered track haulage systems are used to transport personnel and materials in and out of the mine.

The principal officials for Jim Walter Resources, Inc., No. 4 Mine at the time of the accident were:
George R. Richmond .......... President & Chief Operator Officer
Fred Kozel .......... Mine Manager
Ken Russell .......... Safety Manager
Gregory H. Dean .......... Vice President-Finance
Charles A. Dixon .......... Vice President-Engineering
Richard A. Donnelly .......... Vice President-Operations
Dean M. Fjelstul .......... Vice President & Treasurer
Frank A. Hult .......... Vice President-Marketing & Transportation
A-Edward McKnight Jr. .......... Controller
Edward A. Porter .......... Secretary
Mary C. Snow .......... Assistant Secretary
Joseph W. Spransy .......... Assistant Secretary
Cynthia B. Eisch .......... Assistant Treasurer
Stephen H. Foxworth .......... Assistant Treasurer
An MSHA Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was completed on March 16, 1999, and another was ongoing at the time of the accident.

The non-fatal days lost (NFDL) incidence rate for underground mines during the last available quarter was 8.89 nationwide and 7.48 for this mine.


On Thursday, May 6, 1999, at approximately 11:30 p.m., the outby electrical crew consisting of five (5) people, under the supervision of John Worley, Electrical Foreman, entered the mine andtraveled to the motor pit to receive work assignments. David Griffin, victim, and Gary Theis, Electrician, were assigned to go to the West Main "D" belt drive to repair a sequence cable. Upon arrival at the West "D" belt drive, Eschol Mathews, Belt Cleaner, informed Griffin and Theis that the sequence switch had been repaired. Griffin and Theis then proceeded to the North"A" Belt to perform weekly maintenance. At approximately 1:30 a.m., Friday, May 7, 1999, Griffin and Theis arrived at the North "A" belt drive. At approximately 2:10 a.m., Rubin Curb, Mine Control Room Operator, called Theis and told him that the No. 2 Longwall was down and the North "A" belt could be turned off for the preventive maintenance. Theis started greasing the North "A" belt drive and Griffin went to the bunker area. Later, Theis went to the bunker area to find Griffin. After searching the area for approximately fifteen (15) minutes, Theis met Sid Justice, Belt Cleaner. Theis asked Justice if he had seen Griffin. Justice responded in the negative. Theis went to check the manbus and the South Tyson Kickback Area and he still did not locate Griffin. Meanwhile, Justice noticed a running waterhose in the ventilation shaft. Justice turned the water off at the valve, where the waterhose connects to the four (4) inch water line. Theis returned from searching for Griffin and encountered Justice again. They discussed the whereabouts of Griffin. Theis then noticed the waterhose in the ventilation shaft and decided to look in the shaft. Theis saw Griffin on the first landing, approximately thirty (30) feet below lying face up. Theis yelled to Griffin but he did not get a response.

At approximately 3:00 a.m. , Theis called Curb and told him that Griffin had fallen into the ventilation shaft at the bunker and that he needed help. Curb immediately called Worley and Ty Olsen, Outby Coordinator. Both responded to the call. Worley immediately went to the bunker area, accompanied by Jerry Turner, Electrician, and Henry King, Electrician. Once they arrived at the scene, Worley immediately went into the ventilation shaft and checked Griffin. He determined that Griffin did not have a pulse and was not breathing. Olsen arrived and went into the ventilation shaft to help Worley.

Curb continued to call for help, asking for first aid responders to go to the bunker. Keith Chaney, Electrician, and Brooks Rouse, Miner Helper, arrived from the No. 4 section. Ben Montaban, Shear Operator, and Roy May, Longwall Helper, arrived from the No. 1 longwall, and Matthews arrived from the West "D" belt drive.

When Chaney and Rouse arrived at the bunker, Chaney went into the ventilation shaft, replacing Olsen. Worley and Chaney tied the victim to a stretcher in an upright position and he was pulled to the top. Griffin was put on a manbus and taken to the service shaft where Dale Byrum, Corporate Manager of Safety, and Dr. J. Boyett (life rescue physician) had just arrived. Griffin was pronounced dead by Dr. Boyett at 4:12 a.m.


Tom Meredith, Supervisory Coal Mine Inspector, was notified at 3:30 a.m., May 7, 1999, and Coal Mine Inspector/Accident Investigation Team Leader, Terry Langley, was dispatched to the mine site. An investigation of the accident began at approximately 5:30 a.m., May 7, 1999. MSHA's Division of Safety and Technical Support Group were contacted and technical assistance requested. Coal Mine Inspector, John Church, arrived at the mine site at approximately 6:00 a.m. and interviews were conducted with all persons having information relating to the accident and/or who participated in the rescue efforts for the victim. Coal Mine Inspector (Electrical), William E. Herren, and Mining Engineer, Doniece Scott, arrived at the mine site at approximately 7:00 a.m. and traveled underground to secure the accident scene On May 8, 1999, the underground investigation continued with all members of MSHA's Accident Team with participants of Jim Walter Resources, Inc., United Mine Workers of America and the State of Alabama Industrial Relations Department. On May 12, 1999, Tuscaloosa County Medical Examiner visited the accident scene.


The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the occurrence of the accident:

1) The roof at the bunker area is approximately 30 feet high.

2) The bunker is 152 feet deep.

3) There are two (2) ventilation shafts that extend from the top of the bunker to the bottom of the bunker.

4) The ventilation shaft into which the victim fell extended 16 inches above the mine floor with a permanently attached ladder the length of the 36 inch diameter shaft. The shaft has a 26 inch by 25 � inch opening at the top with a steel cover.

5) The steel cover on the ventilation shaft was left open.

6) Tripping hazards in the form of a water hose, scrap metal, belt rollers, and buckets were found in the area around the ventilation shaft.

7) The victim was washing the bunker area with a wash-down hose.

8) Water pressure on the wash-down hose was approximately 550 psi.

9) Lights were located in the bunker area and visibility was good.

10) There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.


The fatal accident occurred when the victim was washing the bunker area with a high pressure water hose. It was the consensus of the accident investigation team that the victim slipped. tripped or stumbled and fell backward into the ventilation shaft. Multiple injuries resulted from the fall, which caused the death.


A 103-K Order No. 7667346 was issued to ensure the safety of any persons in the area until the accident investigation was completed.

A 104(a) S&S violation No. 7667372 was issued under 30 CFR, Part 75.360(b) describing an inadequate preshift examination of the ventilation shaft area.

Safeguard No. 7667373 was issued in accordance with Section 314(b) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act to require the guard provided on top of the ventilation shaft in the belt entry to be maintained closed.






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