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District 4



Fork Creek Mine No. 1 (ID No. 46-08763)
Fork Creek Mining Company
Alum Creek, Lincoln County, West Virginia

October 26, 2001

Roger D. Richmond
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

William R. Williams
Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center

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

Release Date: March 14, 2002


On October 26, 2001, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Steven W. Mahon, age 31, a Fletcher Roof Bolt Machine Operator, was fatally injured when the mine roof throughout most of the unbolted area of the No. 6 right crosscut fell. Measurement of the fallen rock was not obtainable, but was estimated at 17' 10" wide, by approximately 25' long and between 10 - 15 inches thick. There was a violation of Section 75.202(c) 30 CFR, in that the victim, for unknown reasons, positioned himself under unsupported roof.


The Fork Creek Mine is located southeast of Alum Creek in Boone County, West Virginia. The mine is extracting the No. 2 Gas coal seam, utilizing six continuous miner units on four sections. Two of these sections are super-sections, consisting of two continuous miners and two twin head roof bolt machines. There are no reported underground mines, active or abandoned, found either above or below the current extent of the Fork Creek Mine. There are abandoned workings in the No. 2 Gas seam immediately to the southeast of the Fork Creek Mine. These abandoned works were part of the American Rolling Mill Company's Nellis Mine, which was reportedly abandoned in the 1950's.

The fatal roof fall occurred on the No. 2 super-section, which is located in the 6th left panel off 2nd left of the 3rd southwest mains. The entries in 2nd left were developed on 80-foot centers and crosscuts on 60-foot centers with entry widths at a nominal 18 feet.

The victim was in the process of bolting the first cut taken in the new 6th left panel set-up when the fatal roof fall occurred. The victim was operating the left side of a dual head roof bolter. The roof bolter being used was a Fletcher, Model: DDO-13-B, C-F, equipped with an L-type ATRS and a power extend beam. Both operator canopies were in place over the drilling controls.

The principal officers for Fork Creek Mining Company at the time of the accident were Stephen G. Capelli, Vice President of Operations, and Mark Oldham, Secretary of Treasure. The miners were not represented by the UMWA.

The last Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Inspection (AAA) was completed on September 28, 2001.

The Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) incident rate during the previous quarter was 6.31 for underground mines nationwide and 4.53 for this mine.


On Friday, October 26, 2001, at approximately 7:00 a.m., the No. 2 section day shift crew entered the mine via the track entry accompanied by Section Foreman David Lee Smith. The third shift crew was completing a section move when the day shift crew arrived on the section. Upon arriving on the section, Steven W. Mahon, victim, and Tommy Blair, the right side Fletcher Roof Bolt Machine Operator, walked to the roof bolt machine to put their lunch buckets and equipment on the machine.

Smith instructed Mike Sheppard and Kenny Baisden, left side twin head roof bolter operators, and Blair, helper, to assist three of the third shift crew members in moving the high voltage cable. Mahon, Shawn D. Kiser, right side continuous mining machine operator, and Daryl Evans, scoop operator, constructed a stopping. After the high voltage cable was moved and connections were made at the power center, the power was energized. Mahon and Blair took up the slack on the roof bolt machine cable and installed three fly boards in the No. 6 entry and one fly board in the No. 7 entry. When this work was completed, Mahon and Blair parked the roof bolt machine in the crosscut between entries No. 6 and 7 before eating lunch.

After lunch, Mahon and Blair removed the continuous miner cable from the roadway and waited for Kiser, the right side continuous mining machine operator, to mine the first cut out of the No. 6 right crosscut. Smith stated that Kiser started mining between 11:00 A.M. and 11:20 A.M. When mining of the first cut was completed, Kiser moved the continuous miner to the No. 4 entry to begin mining the first cut out of the left crosscut. Mahon moved the roof bolt machine into the face of the No. 6 entry where he spot bolted four (4) roof bolts. Mahon and Blair then started installing the first row of bolts in the No. 6 right crosscut. Mahon installed roof bolts from the left side of the machine, and Blair from the right side. Blair encountered a loose piece of shale and used a crosswise strap which he installed with his first two bolts. Mahon installed the first bolt on the left side (rib bolt) and decided to install a strap lengthwise from the second bolt. He had positioned the strap across the ATRS (Automated Temporary Roof Support System) and drilled the hole to insert the second bolt in the pattern to secure the outby end of the strap.

Blair had, by this time, finished installing his two bolts and strap, and walked toward the rear of the machine to the dust discharge to pick up some rock dust to dry his gloves. When Blair bent over to pick up the rock dust, he heard the rock fall. He yelled for Mahon, but did not receive an answer. Blair ran around the back of the roof bolt machine to the left side, hit the panic switch, which turned the machine off, and discovered that the rock had fallen on Mahon. Blair flagged Kiser and yelled for help. Hearing the rock fall Kiser was already looking in the direction of the roof bolter and saw Blair run around the back of the machine. Kiser ran over to see what had occurred and observed Mahon under the rock. Donnie Stratton, a shuttle car operator, arrived at the scene about the same time as Kiser. Blair instructed Stratton to go to the mine telephone and call outside. About that time, other employees arrived at the scene. Kiser went to get a lifting jack and met Marvin Crum, an electrician, who had already gotten the jack. Kiser took the first aid equipment to the scene, and began helping other employees jack and crib, or block up the rock. Shortly thereafter, Eric Hoffman, the chief electrician, arrived on the scene. Hoffman is also an E.M.T. (Emergency Medical Technician). He checked Mahon for a pulse, but could not detect one. Hoffman asked a roof bolt machine operator to raise the drill pot up in order to obtain better access to Mahon to conduct a primary survey on Mahon.

Smith, the section foreman, was located on the right return stopping line when the accident occurred. Dave Scudero, an electrician, flagged for Smith to come to the accident site. Smith joined the crews effort to extricate Mahon. He stated that it took approximately thirty minutes to retrieve Mahon from under the rock. Hoffman and Crum pulled Mahon out from under the rock, and placed him on a back board. Mahon was carried to the man bus and transported to the surface where the Lincoln County Ambulance Service was waiting. Mahon was transported to the Charleston Medical Examiner's Office where he was pronounced dead.


MSHA was notified at 2:55 P.M., on October, 26, 2001, that a serious accident had occurred. MSHA accident investigators were dispatched to the mine. A 103(k) order was issued to insure the safety of the miners until the accident investigation could be completed. The investigation was conducted in cooperation with the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety, and Training (WVMHST), with the assistance of the operator and their employees. A list of those persons who participated, were interviewed, and/or were present during the investigation can be found in Appendix A of this report.

Representatives of MSHA and the WVMHST traveled to the underground accident scene to secure the area. A thorough investigation of existing physical conditions of the accident scene was conducted by the investigation team members. Photographs, video recordings, and relevant measurements were taken. Sketches and a survey were also conducted at the site.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed on October 27, 2001. Interviews were conducted with persons who had knowledge of the accident on October 29, 2001, at the MSHA Madison Office at Uneeda, West Virginia. The investigation also included a review of training records and records of required examinations.



Training records were reviewed and all required training was in compliance with 30 CFR.

ExaminationExamination of records and on-site evidence indicated that the required examinations were being conducted and recorded in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 75.

Physical Factors

1. The immediate roof in the area of the fall is a dark gray shale. This shale is thinly laminated and contains varying concentrations of sand. Corelog data indicate that the 2-Gas is overlain by 24 feet of gray sandstone which is in turn overlain by 22 feet of sandy shale. The shale is characterized by well developed splits or clefts.

2. An examination of the fall cavity and neighboring mine roof reveals a remarkable occurrence of fossil fragments. These fossil fragments are of varying lateral extent and appear to be randomly oriented carbonized bark fragments. Such a high density of these fossilized fragments results in horizontal planes of weakness within the immediate roof that can negatively impact rock strength. The fossil fragments observed in the fall cavity described above, were also present in the surface of the mine roof throughout the necked off areas of the 6th left panel.

3. Slickensides (slips), commonly found nearby to a shale/sandstone contact zone, were also observed in the fall cavity. Such surfaces were visible along the outby fall break line in the fall cavity. A circular (2 to 3-foot diameter), low angle slickensided surface (kettlebottom) was also visible near the center of the fall cavity. The presence of such discontinuities in the immediate roof contributed to the instability of the immediate roof resulting in the roof fall.

4. The overburden depth in the area of the fall is between 600-700 feet.

5. The roof bolting machine was positioned to bolt the first row in an approximate 24-foot deep cut. At the time of the investigation, the ATRS beam was contacting the mine roof. This was the first cut in the first right break off the No. 6 heading in the 6th left panel. Two bolts, along with a 4.75-inch x 54-inch metal strap running between them, had been installed across the break by the right side operator. On the left side, the outside bolt was installed. The second bolt in from the left side was in a bolt hole, but the head of the bolt was hanging about 24 inches down from the mine roof. There was also a 4-inch x 54-inch metal strap on this partially installed roof bolt. This strap was oriented parallel with the length of the cut and perpendicular to the strap installed on the right side. The outby end of the strap ended at the partially installed bolt and the inby end of the strap extended out over the ATRS beam toward the face.

6. The mined height in the area of the fall ranged from 75-83 inches. The coal bed thickness in this area is approximately 55 inches. The width of the fallen cut is approximately 18 feet.

7. The mine roof had fallen throughout most of the unbolted area of the cut. The fall rubble on the mine floor consisted of multiple broken rock slabs of varying dimensions. A direct measurement of the thickness of the fallen rock slabs was not obtainable, but was estimated at between 10 to 15 inches.

8. The outby break line of the fall coincided very closely with the inby edge of the ATRS beam. The resting position of the outby edge of the fallen rock relative to the visible break line in the mine roof indicates that the fall material expanded as it broke and/or fell in such a manner that it moved slightly outby from its in situ position. The body of the victim was reportedly found lying face down, mostly covered with rock and oriented with the top of the head against the inby edge of the left side drill head and the trunk of his body extended toward the face of the cut.

9. The roof bolts being installed at the accident site were Earl Products-Double Twist Bolts. This bolt is relatively new to the underground mining industry having been patented within the past year. The particular bolt being used was a 6-foot long, 3/4- inch diameter, tensioned rebar bolt with a unique jam nut and installation specifications calling for the utilization of two resin mixes of different set times used in the same hole. The bearing plates used were 8-inch by 8-inch donut embossed.


It is the consensus of the investigation team that the victim positioned himself inby the ATRS (Automatic Temporary Roof Support) for unknown reasons and received multiple crushing injuries when the unsupported mine roof fell. The presence of discontinuities in the immediate roof contributed to the instability of the immediate roof in this unsupported area.

1. A 103(k) Order No. 4404312 was issued to ensure the safety of all persons in the mine until an investigation is completed and all areas and equipment are deemed safe.

2. A 104(a) Citation No. 7205840 was issued to Fork Creek Mining Company for a violation of 75.202(b) stating in part that the roof bolt machine operator was fatally injured while working under unsupported roof.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB01C34


The Mine Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation and those present and/or participating were as follows:

Fork Creek Mining Company
Dennis Fillinger ............... Mine Foreman
Rodney Barker ............... Chief Electrician
Larry Blackburn ............... Mine Foreman
Ed Chafin ............... Manager of Loss Control (Safety)
West Virginia Miners' Health, Safety, and Training
Dennie Ballard ............... Supervisor
Mike Rutledge ............... Photographer
Terry Farley ............... Accident Investigator
Ernie Pylis ............... District Inspector
Richard Boggess ............... District Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Roger Richmond ............... Coal Mine Safety & Health Inspector/AI
Don Winston ............... Roof Control Specialist
James Beha ............... Coal Mine Safety & Health Specialist/Investigation Coordinator
James Addison ............... Coal Mine Safety & Health Inspector
Sharon Cook ............... Education and Training Specialist
Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center
William Williams ............... Mining Engineer

The following persons were interviewed during this investigation:
Tommy Blair ............... Roof Bolt Machine Operator
Shawn D. Kiser ............... Continuous Mining Machine Operator
Eric S. Hoffman ............... Chief Electrician
Daniel Lee Smith ............... Section Foreman
David R. Scaduro ............... Electrician