According to a 15-page filing by the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, 53-year-old trackman Charles Dixon was working at Newtown Energy’s Eagle mine on the morning of October 27, 2009, when he was struck and crushed by a runaway locomotive.
Two other workers riding in the trip at the time received injuries.
“While hoisting the hoist car, locomotive and supply car up a slope, the hoist rope broke, causing the trip to travel back down the slope out of control,” state investigators found.
“The out of control [unit] struck and killed Mr Dixon, who was at the bottom of the slope.”
The hoist rope failed at about 525 feet above the conveyance at the bull wheel.
Investigators estimated the loaded rail car weighed 64,000 pounds.
The MHST found that certified examinations of the hoist rope were conducted April 3, 2009 and August 17, 2009. The latter of the two reviews found a loss of strength of 6.95%, up from 6.14% in April, as well as anomalies of wear, broken internal and external wires and fretting corrosion.
It also found various issues with the mine’s rope rollers, rope pads and brake car.
“Four rollers were stuck, seven rollers were missing, five rollers were extremely tight, one roller had worn out bearings, two rollers were dislodged from the roller mounts and one roller was stuck with a groove cut into the shell, exposing the mine shaft,” according to the report.
“The Sanford-Day brake car … was not being maintained in a safe condition,” it added.
“The power wire and packing gland had been removed from the right side overspeed [centrifugal] switch, and the conductors had been shunted together, taped up, and suspended above the unit, thereby making the switch inoperable.”
The report noted that only one switch remained functional to activate the brakes for overspeed when maintained in that condition.
As a result of its investigation, state regulators issued a total of eight violations, five of which were violations of a health and safety rule, were of a serious nature and involved a fatality.
To rectify the issues, some of which included improper and unsafe maintenance of equipment, the agency recommended that the mine conduct visual examinations of the normally-used portion of the rope on a daily basis when the hoist is in use. Such reviews will be recorded in the operation’s hoist book.
Additionally, baseline measurements are to be established every 300 feet of the rope’s normally used length when the new rope is installed. The measurements are to be taken after the manufacturer’s stretch has been removed and before wear begins, but not longer than three weeks from installation. The testing should be done every six months and all evaluations recorded, investigators said.
According to state records, the 200-worker Eagle mine produces about 4000 clean tons daily, or about 1 million tons per annum, and extracts from the Eagle seam. Its accident incident rate listed for the mine in the report was 7.09.