MSHA releases details on US double fatality

A COLLAPSE of the outby portion of roof at West Virginia’s Cucumber mine caused the crushing deaths of two workers last weekend, according to a preliminary report by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Donna Schmidt

Utility man Pete Poindexter and roof bolter operator James Thomas died January 13 at the Brooks Run Mining operation owned by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources.

At the time of the accident, both were acting as mobile roof support operators at the McDowell County operation that was in the process of performing retreat mining.

MSHA has classified both fatalities as Fall of Roof or Back and lists the time of death and the time of the incident as the same.

“At approximately 10.40am [local time], a multiple fatal accident occurred … when [the men] were repositioning the mobile roof support machines while performing retreat mining practices on the North Section,” MSHA said in its report.

“The mobile roof support machine operators were in the process of repositioning the No. 1 mobile roof support machine after completion of the third lift in the No. 3 entry on North Mains when an outby portion of the roof collapsed, pinning both individuals.”

The agency also measured the fallen roof at approximately 8 feet wide by 9ft long with a thickness of 0-24 inches.

Poindexter, with over two years of mining experience, had worked just 28 weeks at the Cucumber mine and had been performing the MRS operator position for six weeks. Thomas, who had 12 years of experience, had been at the operation for 20 weeks, and six weeks in the job he was performing when the two died.

Brooks Run’s Cucumber, a bituminous operation, employs 138 workers with 135 underground.

The deaths are the first two for West Virginia in 2007 and are the second and third US coal mining-related fatalities this year.