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Underground Coal Mine

Fatal Fall of Roof Accident
November 5, 2001

108-I Mine

Roblee Coal Company
Century, Barbour County, West Virginia
I.D. No. 46-08074

Accident Investigators

Joseph R. Yudasz
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Richard G. Jones
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Michael A. Evanto, P.G.
Geologist, Roof Control

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
District 3
5012 Mountaineer Mall
Morgantown, West Virginia 26501
Timothy J. Thompson, District Manager

Release Date: February 14, 2002


On November 5, 2001, at approximately 5:40 a.m., Anthony P. Harlan, a 26-year old classified Utilityman working as a Continuous-Mining Machine Helper, was fatally injured in a roof fall accident in the 5 Left Section. Michael D. Dix, a 37-year old classified Continuous-Mining Machine Operator, was also seriously injured in the accident.

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on November 4, 2001, the crew, utilizing a mantrip and scoop, traveled underground to the 5 Left Section, located in the Redstone coal seam portion of the mine. William C. Zirkle, Jr., Section Foreman, and Patrick W. Coffman, Roof Bolting Machine Operator, traveled behind the crew in another mantrip. Zirkle and Coffman stopped at the belt drives enroute to the section to monitor the belt conveyor operations. After preliminaries, mining began in the No. 8 entry and continued in No. 4 entry, No. 3 entry and then in the crosscut between Nos. 7 and 8 entries. Production was delayed three times during the mining cycle due to an operations problem at No. 3 belt head and the No. 2 belt tailpiece being "gobbed out". Harlan, Victim, and shuttle car operators, David A. Rader and William M. Phillips, were summoned off the section to assist Zirkle in cleaning the No. 2 belt conveyor tailpiece. After cleaning the spill, production resumed on the section with mining continuing in the No. 7-8 crosscut. Once Zirkle returned to the section, he began an onshift examination of the working faces, talking briefing with Harlan and Dix at the No. 7-8 working place. After examining the No. 10 entry face, Zirkle returned to Harlan and Dix's location. As he approached the miners, via the No. 7 entry, the roof fell in the working place, knocking Zirkle to the mine floor and dislodging the cap light from his hard hat. Uninjured, Zirkle recovered his cap light and noticed Harlan in a sitting position and asked if he was okay. Getting no response, Zirkle checked for vital signs and immediately began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and called for help. Phillips transported Dix to the surface while Harlan was being treated and prepared for transportation. An emergency medical technician with Barbour County Emergency Squad met the crew transporting Harlan out of the mine and assisted in his emergency care.

Once on the surface, Dix was transported by ambulance to Broaddus Hospital in Philippi, West Virginia, and from there to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, by helicopter. Upon Harlan's arrival on the surface, emergency personnel examined him and were advised by the staff at Broaddus Hospital to discontinue CPR and transport Harlan to Broaddus Hospital. CPR was discontinued on Mr. Harlan at 6:20 a.m.

The investigation concluded that a roof fall occurred when the coal supporting the mine roof, under an area where three undetected, intersecting high angled slickensided slips were present, was removed during extended cut mining. The fatality occurred because management failed to comply with their approved roof control plan requiring additional roof bolts to be installed to protect the miner operator and other persons against roof falls riding back through the installed roof bolts when extended cut mining is being performed.


Roblee Coal Company's 108-I Mine is located near Century, Barbour County, West Virginia. The mine is accessed by six drift openings into the 60-inch thick Redstone seam and one slope into the 84-inch thick Pittsburgh seam. Two airshafts, an intake and return, connect the two seams. Coal is produced in the Redstone seam on dayshift and occasionally on the midnight maintenance shift. The Pittsburgh seam is in the initial stages of rehabilitation. The mine produces approximately 1200 tons of raw coal daily. The mine employs 26 persons, 24 underground miners and 2 surface employees, and normally operates eight hours per day and five days per week on day and midnight shifts. The afternoon shift is idled.

Cuts in excess of 20-feet (extended cuts) are mined in the Redstone seam using a remote controlled continuous-mining machine that is equipped with a wet-bed scrubber. A continuous-mining machine with onboard controls is utilized in the Pittsburgh seam, where extended cuts are not mined. Shuttle cars are used to transport coal from the faces to a section belt conveyor feeder. Coal is then transported to the surface by a series of belt conveyor flights, where it is loaded into contracted coal hauling trucks and transported to a coal cleaning facility near Hodgesville, West Virginia.

The mine uses a room and pillar method. In the Redstone seam, maximum entry, crosscut, and room widths are 20 feet and maximum entry and crosscut centers are 50 to100 feet with room centers on 40 to 80 feet. Provisions of the approved roof control plan allow for extended cuts up to 40 feet beyond the last row of roof bolts in the Redstone seam. The plan includes numerous provisions that must be followed when extended cut mining is being conducted

Several coal companies have owned and/or contracted mining rights since BethEnergy developed the mine in 1988. On April 30, 2001, Roblee Coal Company entered into a contract with Cherokee Processing Company, Inc., to operate this underground mine as an independent contractor.

One blowing main fan, located on the surface, ventilates the mine. The mine liberates approximately 21, 384 cubic feet of methane every 24 hours.

The principal officials for Roblee Coal Company at the time of the accident were:
R. R. Jeran ......... President
J. W. Jeran ......... Director/Safety & Training
J. Johnson ......... Director/Production & Maintenance
D. D. Harlan ......... Mine Foreman
The last MSHA regular Health and Safety Inspection (AAA) was completed on September 19, 2001. The Nonfatal Days Lost (NFDL) incident rate during the previous quarter for the industry was 6.92 and 0.00 for this mine. This mine reported one NFDL accident on October 10, 2001.


On Sunday, November 4, 2001, the 3rd shift (midnight) crew, under the supervision of William C. Zirkle Jr., Section Foreman, entered the mine at approximately 11:00 p.m. and traveled to the 5 Left section in the Redstone seam. Although maintenance work is normally performed on this shift, Zirkle advised the crew that they would be mining coal that night and assigned the miners their jobs for the shift. In addition to Zirkle, the crew consisted of Michael D. Dix, Continuous-Mining Machine Operator; Anthony P. Harlan, Continuous-Mining Machine Helper; William M. Phillips and David A. Rader, Shuttle Car Operators; Patrick W. Coffman and Dorn E. Westfall, Roof Bolting Machine Operators. Upon arriving on the section, the crew completed various tasks in preparation for mining coal and then started an extended cut in the No. 8 entry. The No. 3 conveyor belt stopped shortly thereafter. Zirkle traveled to the No. 3 belt drive and tightened the ropes and the belt began operating normally. Zirkle returned to the section and made an onshift examination of the working places and noticed that the bolting crew had supplied their machine and coal production had resumed. The No. 3 conveyor belt again stopped, requiring Zirkle and Coffman to leave the section to correct the problem. Once the belt conveyor restarted, Coffman returned to the section, but Zirkle stayed at the belt drive, repaired a damaged water valve, and monitored the belt briefly. Zirkle then returned to the section and noticed that the continuous-mining machine was cutting coal in the No. 4 entry. Westfall and Coffman were bolting the previous cut in No. 8 entry. Zirkle then trammed a scoop from the No. 8 entry to the section loading point, where he repaired the visible paging light on the telephone and did some maintenance on the scoop. Afterward, Zirkle completed another onshift examination of the working places, noting that roof bolting operations in the No. 8 entry had been completed. He then used the scoop to clean coal spillage and rock dusted the No. 8 working place, after which Coffman assisted him in marking centerlines in the Nos. 6 and 7 faces. During this period, roof bolting was being performed in the No. 4 entry while the continuous-mining machine was being used to complete a cut in the No. 3 entry.

The continuous-mining machine was next moved into the last open crosscut between the Nos. 6 and 7 entries in order to mine the crosscut from the No. 7 entry toward the No. 8 entry, "head-on", without having to turn the crosscut out of the No. 7 entry. Zirkle used the scoop to position the continuous-mining machine's trailing cable out of the shuttle car roadways. Zirkle then reset the emergency remote switch on the ratio feeder at the section dump point, noting that the shuttle cars had dumped a couple loads of coal when the belts stopped again. Thinking that the problem was again at the No. 3 belt drive, Zirkle traveled to the site and found that coal had spilled at the No. 2 conveyor belt tailpiece and "gobbed out" the roller. Phillips, Harlan and Rader reported to the site to help clean the spill while Dix checked the new set-up for the section move. Westfall and Coffman continued bolting in the No. 3 entry. By 5:22 a.m., the spill had been cleaned up and all crewmembers had returned to the section. Zirkle began an onshift examination at this time, working left to right from the No.1 to the No. 10 working places, stopping briefly to talk with Dix and Harlan in the No. 7 - 8 working place. After finishing the last examination in the face of the No. 10 entry at 5:37 a.m., Zirkle returned to the No. 7 entry and was nearing Harlan and Dix, who were standing in the intersection between the second and third row of bolts outby the unsupported area. As Zirkle approached Dix and Harlan, the roof fell in the working place. Zirkle was knocked to the mine floor and his cap light was dislodged from his hard hat, but he was not injured. After Zirkle recovered his cap light, he noticed that the roof had fallen the entire length of the crosscut between the Nos. 7 and 8 entries, riding back between the permanent roof bolts into the No. 7 entry, where Dix and Harlan were located. Zirkle heard Dix yelling and noticed him exiting the last open crosscut into the No. 6 entry. Zirkle then noticed Harlan in a sitting position near the edge of the roof fall. He asked Harlan if he was okay, but received no response. Zirkle then walked up to Harlan to check for vital signs and yelled for help. Rader exited his shuttle car to help Zirkle with Harlan. Zirkle, an emergency medical technician (EMT), began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Zirkle told Rader to get help. Westfall, Phillips, and Coffman came to the site and helped move Harlan's leg out from under a rock. They next moved Harlan outby to a safer location. CPR was continued as the victim was placed on a backboard, readying him for transport in a first aid car. During this time, Dix was transported to the surface by Phillips. The section was then informed that help from the surface was on the way and they could transport Harlan in the mantrip. Shortly thereafter, Pat Wamsley and Zach Payne Sr., dayshift miners, arrived on the section to assist. Zirkle felt that transportation in the mantrip or the first aid car would disrupt CPR. Therefore, it was decided to transport in the scoop bucket. After chaining the scoop blade down, they began transporting Harlan toward the surface. Near midway out of the mine, they met Phillips who had returned underground with Ron McCumbers, a miner and a volunteer EMT with the Barbour County Emergency Squad. McCumbers assisted in administering CPR during the trip out of the mine.

Once on the surface, Dix was transported to Broaddus Hospital in Philippi, West Virginia, and later by helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. When Harlan reached the surface, emergency medical personnel examined Harlan. Upon contacting the hospital, emergency medical personnel were advised to discontinue CPR and transport the victim to Broaddus Hospital. Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on Mr. Harlan was discontinued at 6:20 a.m.


This investigation was conducted in cooperation with the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training. Other participants included management personnel from Roblee Coal Company and engineers from Wolfe and Associates. Miners were notified of their right to participate, but declined participation. A list of those persons who participated in the investigation is contained in Appendix A of this report.

At 7:30 a.m. on November 5, 2001, R. R. Jeran, President, Roblee Coal Company, notified MSHA's Bridgeport Field Office that a roof fall accident had occurred in the Redstone seam, resulting in the death of one miner and causing serious injury to another. A 103(k) Order was immediately issued to ensure the safety of all persons until an investigation was completed and the mine deemed safe. Richard G. Jones, Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector, and Cecil M. Branham, Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector, arrived at the mine at 9:30 a.m., at which time a pre-investigation conference was conducted. A preliminary interview with one of the witnesses, William Zirkle, Jr., Section Foreman, was conducted prior to the investigation team going underground. Joseph R. Yudasz, Coal Mine Health and Safety Inspector, joined the investigation team and gathered preliminary information relevant to the investigation. Once at the accident site, an examination was made for imminent dangers. Photographs and video recordings were made from a safe distance prior to wooden roof supports being installed to safely access the accident site. After supplementing the roof supports, additional photographs, measurements, and video recordings were made of the area.

On November 6, 2001, persons having knowledge of the facts regarding the accident were interviewed. Personnel from MSHA's Technical Support - Roof Control Division, John R. Cook, William J. Gray, and Howard C. Epperly from Accident Reduction Program, joined the investigation team and took additional photographs and measurements at the accident site. Personnel from Wolfe and Associates, Brad Crandall and Howard Shuttleworth, assisted in mapping the area. The investigation also included a review of training records by Educational Field Service Specialist, Jerry Vance. Also on this date, the working section in the Pittsburgh seam was inspected for conditions or practices similar to that at the accident site. However, the continuous-mining machine used in this portion of the mine was not equipped with remote controls, and extended cuts were not being mined. Therefore, the 103(k) Order was modified to allow normal mining operations to resume in the active areas of the Pittsburgh seam.

On November 7, 2001, an interview was conducted at the home of eyewitness and victim Michael D. Dix. Also, the 103(k) Order was modified to allow the operator to institute procedures to safely resume normal mining operations in the Redstone seam. This consisted of a plan developed by the operator to safely recover the mining equipment from the fall area and to reinstruct all miners in the applicable portions of the operator's approved roof control plan, "Provisions for the Safe Operations of Remote Control Extended Cut Miners". This instruction was conducted at the start of each shift and documented by the operator, prior to resuming normal mining operations in the Redstone seam on that shift. All provisions of the plan were completed on November 12, 2001, at which time the 103(k) Order was terminated.


Physical Factors

At the time of the accident, a Joy 14 CM-10-10DX (Serial No. JM3788) remote-controlled continuous-mining machine was being used to mine an extended cut in the No. 7-8 crosscut, 210 feet inby survey station No. 1519. This crosscut was being driven N58�E, approximately 400 feet southeast of an area where the Redstone seam was strip mined. The extended cut was being mined in four lifts, each a maximum of 20 feet deep, with the first and third lifts being mined on the right side of the working place. The coal pillars between the entries were approximately 32 feet wide, with crosscuts developed at an angle of 90 degrees from the entries. This permitted the crosscuts to be mined with a single extended cut. Prior to the accident, the crosscut was holed through into the No. 8 entry when the third lift was completed. Since the roof bolts in each entry were three to four feet from the rib line, this created an unsupported area approximately 40 feet long, as measured between the roof bolts in the Nos. 7 and 8 entries. The roof fall occurred without any visible or audible warning, while the fourth lift was being mined. Approximately six feet of coal remained to be mined from the final lift in order to complete the crosscut on the left side of the working place. Also, at that time, the continuous-mining machine was loading into a Joy 10SC32-59AE-4 standard shuttle car (Serial No. ET16511). The shuttle car was nearly loaded to capacity and the shuttle car operator was preparing to return to the section loading point when the roof fall occurred. The roof fall did not extend to the shuttle car operator's position and he was not injured during the event.

The roof fall material was composed of thinly laminated dark gray shale. The fall occurred after mining had removed the coal from beneath three intersecting slips. Slip No.1 angled from the inby corner of the newly exposed crosscut, back through the intersection of the No. 7 entry. It was estimated to be striking N10�E. Slip No. 2 was estimated to be striking S87�E, angling from the inby corner of the newly exposed crosscut (No. 7 entry side) to near the outby corner of the No. 8 entry. Slip No. 3 ran along the outby rib of the newly exposed crosscut, striking approximately N58�E (See Figure 1). These three slips were high angled, slickensided, and bounded the extent of the roof fall. The slip planes were not only polished and slickensided, but also contained a thin moist clay layer (See Figure 3). The existence of the slips greatly reduced the spanning capacity of the roof beam and there was virtually no cohesion along the slip planes due to the nature of the surfaces (polished, and slick with the moist clay layer). The upper failure surface was along a nearly flat-lying, thin carbonaceous and fossilized shale layer. This shale layer was directly over a 1/8-inch light gray sandy shale layer located approximately 3� feet above the mined roof line. The fall was approximately 0-3 � feet thick, 0-15 feet wide, and 45 feet long. It extended from the last row of roof bolts on the left side of the No. 8 entry to outby the 3rd and 4th row of roof bolts on the right side of the No. 7 entry (See Figure 1). This fallen material sheared off the 2nd roof bolt in the 1st row and exposed the bottom 12-inches of the 2nd roof bolt in the 2nd row in the No. 7 entry intersection. The fallen material that extended back into the roof bolts in No. 7 entry (See Figure 2) was approximately 7 feet long, 6-36 inches wide, and 0-12 inches thick, and broke into three pieces upon striking the mine floor. It is believed that this material struck both miners causing serious injuries to the continuous-mining machine operator and fatally injuring the helper.

At the time of the accident, the 5 Left panel was being developed by advancing ten entries on 50 foot centers, with crosscuts being mined on 70 foot centers. Mining heights on the section varied between 60-70 inches with entry and crosscut widths between 17-19 feet. The working section was located approximately 40 feet above the Pittsburgh seam and had approximately 265 feet of overburden. No mining had been conducted in the lower seam (Pittsburgh seam) within 170 feet of the accident location. These conditions have historically shown to be sufficient to permit extended cuts in the Redstone seam, provided that all necessary safety precautions are followed, as outlined in the operator's approved roof control plan.

Roof Control Plan Requirements

An extended cut is defined as any cut in which the onboard manual controls of the continuous-mining machine advances inby the last row of permanent roof supports or any cut in which the mining machine is advanced more than 20 feet inby the last row of permanent roof supports. At this mine, extended cuts are limited to 40 feet in depth and are mined in the Redstone seam only, as specified in the operator's roof control plan approved August 14, 2001. The roof control plan includes safety provisions that must be followed during extended cut mining, including the following excerpt from Pages 12-13:

To protect the miner operator and other persons against roof falls riding back through the roof bolts when extended cut mining is being performed, additional support shall be installed by one of the following methods:

a. Two additional roof bolts shall be installed within the last two rows of roof bolts.

b. Six roof bolts shall be installed in the last row of roof bolts.

These additional bolts are intended to act like breaker posts, preventing roof falls in the unsupported area from extending back into areas where miners are working. To achieve this, more roof support is required than for a standard cut, since extended cuts expose larger unsupported areas, creating the potential for larger and higher roof falls. However, neither of the above options for installing the additional roof bolts was being complied with in the No. 7-8 working place at the time of the accident. Either of these bolting patterns would have likely located an additional roof bolt within the portion of the fall zone that extended into the intersection toward Dix and Harlan.

Compliance with other relevant portions of the roof control plan was also evaluated during the investigation. The approved roof control plan requires the use of No. 5 (5/8-inch), Grade 40-60 fully grouted bolts, with a minimum length of 48 inches, installed with six-inch by six-inch plates. The rows must be installed on at a maximum of five-foot centers, four bolts per row, with the outer two bolts installed within four feet of the ribs. The maximum spacing between bolts within each row is four and one-half feet. Observations in the vicinity of the accident and throughout the 5 Left panel indicated compliance with this provision of the plan. No. 5, Grade 60, 60-inch long fully resin grouted bolts with eight-inch by eight-inch plates were being used throughout the section and spaced according to the approved plan. Page 12 of the approved roof control plan also includes a provision that states:

The miner operator or other persons shall not advance beyond the second outby row of roof bolts while the continuous miner is being operated during extended cut mining practices, provided however, that the inby edge of the canopy of manned face haulage equipment may be advanced to the last row of permanent supports.

Based on evidence at the accident site and from testimony of miners involved, it appears that both the injured and victim were located outby the second row of permanent supports, as required by this provision.


The operator's training records were reviewed on November 6, 2001. It was found that training had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48. The records indicated that Anthony P. Harlan, Victim, became a qualified underground apprentice miner by the State of West Virginia (No. 1-22841-UGA) on February 9, 2001, having received 80 hours training. Harlan was employed underground on May 11, 2001, at Roblee Coal Company's Jesse's Run Mine No. 2, I.D. No. 46-08004. Harlan was transferred to their 108-I Mine on June 2, 2001. Training records, MSHA Form 5000-23, indicate that Harlan received experienced miner training (30 CFR Part 48.6) on June 2, 2001, at the108-I Mine. Records also indicate that Harlan received the following task training: utilityman and mantrip on June 2, 2001; continuous miner operator helper on July 5, 2001; and scoop, roof bolter, continuous miner operator, shuttle car and mantrip on August 13, 2001.


The roof fall occurred after mining had removed the coal from beneath three intersecting slips. A section of unsupported roof rock, bounded by the three slips, broke under its own weight along a flat lying carbonaceous shale layer approximately 3 � feet above the mine roof and fell without audible or visual warning. The roof fall began in the unsupported portion of the working place and continued outby, shearing a bolt in the first row of roof bolts and riding back to a point just inby the fourth row of roof bolts. The roof fall extended back through the roof bolts because the additional roof supports required by the approved roof control plan were not installed. The fall resulted in two miners being struck by the falling material, one of which was fatally injured.


A 103 (k) Order, No. 7090636, was issued to Roblee Coal Company to ensure the safety to all persons until an investigation was completed and the area and equipment were deemed safe.

A 104 (a) Citation, No. 7133475, was issued to Roblee Coal Company for a violation of 30 CFR 75.220 (a) (1). The operator did not comply with their approved roof control plan, as additional roof bolts were not installed in the area in the No. 7 entry where an extended cut was being mined in the crosscut No. 7-8 entry. Item No. 9, page 12-13 of the approved plan, requires additional support to be installed where extended cut mining is being performed to protect the mining machine operator and other persons from roof falls riding back through the roof bolts.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB01C36


Listed below are the persons furnishing information and/or present during the investigation: Roblee Coal Company
R. R. Jeran .......... President
Joseph Johnson .......... Director/Production & Maintenance
* William C. Zirkle Jr. .......... Midnight Shift Section Foreman
* William M. Phillips .......... Mine Examiner/Shuttle Car Operator
* Patrick W. Coffman .......... Roof Bolter Operator
* Dorn E. Westfall .......... Roof Bolter Operator
* David A. Rader .......... Shuttle Car Operator
* Michael D. Dix .......... Continuous Miner Operator
Wolfe & Associates, Inc.
C.B.Wolfe, P. E. .......... Engineer
Howard Shuttleworth .......... Engineer
Bradley W. Crandall .......... Engineer
West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training
John Collins .......... Assistant Inspector-at-Large
Kevin Betler .......... District Mine Inspector-Roof Control
Bill Tankersley .......... District Mine Inspector
Edward Peddicord .......... District Safety Instructor
Terry Farley .......... Health and Safety Administrator
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Joseph R. Yudasz .......... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Richard G. Jones .......... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Michael A. Evanto .......... Geologist-Roof Control
Jerry Vance .......... Mine Safety and Health Specialist (Training)
John R. Cook .......... Mining Engineer-Roof Control Division
William J. Gray .......... Mining Engineer-Roof Control Division
Howard C. Epperly .......... Engineer Technician-Accident Reduction Program
Emergency Services
Robert G. Jones .......... Director, Barbour County Emergency Services
* Persons Interviewed