Kentucky miner killed by rock fall

THE second fatality in a week has occurred in the US coal industry, this time as a result of falling rock after a roof fall in Kentucky.

Donna Schmidt

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration confirmed to ILN Thursday morning that continuous miner operator Phillip Newton, 35, died at about 11.55pm local time Wednesday night after an incident at Sapphire Coal Company’s Sandlick II operation in Letcher County.

“[The victim] was struck by a piece of shale that fell from the mine roof [while] in the process of mining the No. 5 right crosscut in the No. 4 East Panel,” the agency said of the 8.40pm event.

According to a preliminary report, the worker had been operating a Joy 14CM15 continuous miner.

Federal investigators reported the downed rock as 13 feet in length, 6ft in width and 13-16 inches thick.

First aid was administered to Newton underground and workers attempted to free him from the shale, but the Letcher County coroner told local news station WSAZ that he did not survive the trauma.

"It's just a freak accident, just one of those things, you know, something sad happening here around Christmas to the family," the coroner said.

Newton had 12 years of mining experience, including one year at Sandlick II. He had been a CM operator for three years, MSHA said.

Sapphire Coal Company is owned by Metinvest BV.

Sandlick II employs 55 workers, 51 underground. There were 17 miners underground at the time of the incident, the agency said.

According to federal data, the mine had not recorded a fatal operator injury in at least the last 14 years.

Sandlick II recorded a non-fatal days lost contractor injury in 2009, but its last NFDL operator injury was in 2006. The mine’s NFDL incidence rate for both 2007 and 2008 was zero.

December 12, a coal truck driver died in a haul road incident at a TECO Energy operation, another mine in Kentucky.

According to preliminary details from MSHA, 52-year-old Stevie Johnson of the PE Southern Pike mine was operating a 10-wheel International haul truck down a grade on a haul road.

It appears he lost control and either jumped or was thrown from the unit, which overturned in the center of the haul road.

Johnson, a 30-year industry veteran, was a contractor driver for Trivette Trucking.

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