Roof collapse leaves one dead, one missing

ONE man has been confirmed dead and another is still missing but presumed dead after a roof collapse accident at a Kentucky coal mine during the evening hours of August 3.

Donna Schmidt

Brandon Wilder, 23, was identified by his brother Travis Wilder as the fatally wounded worker at Stillhouse Mine No. 1, near Cumberland. A spokesperson for the Kentucky office of Mine Safety and Licensing, Holly McCoy-Johnson, reported the missing miner as Russell Cole, 39.

Wilder’s body was recovered at about 5:30am Thursday, approximately seven hours after a section of mine roof 20ft wide, 20ft long and 11ft high collapsed without warning, according to mine office director Paris Charles. McCoy-Johnson said late Thursday that what began as a rescue effort for Cole at the scene about three miles from the mine entrance had now turned to a recovery operation.

“There has been no communication, no visible evidence that this miner is alive,” she said, and estimated the recovery effort would take 10-24 hours to complete.

The miners were members of an eight-man crew which was performing retreat mining, removing coal pillars supporting the roof. Two rescue workers were also injured by falling rock since the beginning of the search on Thursday.

Black Mountain Resources, a division of Cumberland Resources, owns Stillhouse Mining, which has been in production since 1999 and employs approximately 73 workers. McCoy-Johnson said Stillhouse had had three violations of its roof control plans in April and May of this year; the state ordered the operation be shut down for a time on each occasion.

According to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration, the number of coal miners killed on the job in US mines this year now stands at 11. Last year, West Virginia led the nation in mining-related deaths with 12, with Kentucky second on six.