A 15-page report released late last week by the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training pointed to various issues with the brakes on the truck 70-year-old William Wade was operating at the time of his death.
Wade, who was employed by local trucking firm Medford Trucking, was working at Massey’s Republic Energy surface mine. He died after losing control of the tractor trailer he was operating, which subsequently rolled over a steep haul road.
Of the five contributory violations found, each carrying a $10,000 fine, three were related to the brakes on the vehicle. The state agency said the truck’s air brake system had been bypassed, thereby providing less air to the system, and excessive brake wear was found on both the truck and trailer – including one rear brake that was not working at all.
In addition to a record-keeping violation, Medford was cited for not complying with a mandatory mine safety program.
“Medford’s comprehensive mine safety program required the use of a daily inspection form that specified 59 different items to be inspected on coal trucks prior to the beginning of each shift,” the report said.
“Medford was not using the daily inspection form and instead had substituted a daily report form that required only 10 items be inspected prior to each shift. [Its] substitution … resulted in undetected safety defects on the No. 21 coal truck [and] this violation contributed to the accident.”
Wade was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the incident. According to the report, he was ejected from the passenger window, which could have been prevented if a seat belt had been worn.
Republic Energy is operated by Massey subsidiary Elk Run Coal. The 236-worker surface mine produced over 2.1 million tons in 2008, extracting from the 5 Block, Clarion, Coalburg, Winifrede and Chilton seams.
Medford Trucking, an independent contractor, is based in Kanawha County and has a payroll of 115. Its accident frequency rate and lost-time accidents, according to the report, were both zero.