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MSHA News Release: [01/31/2006]
Contact: Dirk Fillpot
Phone Number: (202) 693-9406
Release Number: 06-139-NAT

MSHA Names Team to Investigate Aracoma Alma Mine Accident

ARLINGTON, Va. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced the appointment of a team to investigate the underground coal mine fire at the Aracoma Alma Mine No. 1 in Melville, W.Va. Two miners were killed in a Jan. 19 accident at the mine.

"MSHA's investigation will look into the cause of the Alma Mine fire and any violations of safety and health standards," said David G. Dye, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We will conduct a thorough investigation to ensure we find the root cause of this accident to help prevent similar accidents in the future."

An independent team of MSHA mine safety professionals nationwide will evaluate all aspects of the accident, including potential causes and compliance with federal health and safety standards. The team will examine the accident site, interview mine personnel and others with relevant information, review records and plans, and inspect any mining equipment involved at the mine. A formal report issued by MSHA will summarize the findings and conclusions of the investigative team, identifying root causes of the accident and how the incident unfolded. Any contributing violations of federal mine safety standards that may exist will be cited at the conclusion of the investigation.

Dye announced last week that Kenny Murray, MSHA district manager, Pikeville, Ky. is heading the team. Murray has held a number of positions in his career with the agency, including special assistant to the administrator and assistant district manager. He has extensive experience in mine rescue and recovery operations and accident investigations.

Other team members include Michael Finnie, supervisory special investigator, Madisonville, Ky.; Anthony Webb, staff assistant, Pikeville, Ky.; Charles Pogue, roof control specialist, Prosperity, Pa.; Ronald Stahlhut, electrical specialist, Vincennes, Ind.; Anthony Burke, coal mine inspector, Whitesburg, Ky.; Dennis Beiter, supervisory mining engineer, Triadelphia, W.Va.; Derrick Tjernlund, mining engineer, Triadelphia, W.Va.; William Francart, fire protection engineer, Pittsburgh; and attorneys Keith Bell and Dan Barish, Department of Labor Solicitor's Office, Arlington, Va.

Since the initial hours of the incident, MSHA personnel have maintained a constant presence at the mine site, accompanying mine rescue teams underground, providing technical assistance and monitoring ongoing conditions at the mine.

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