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Massey cited in two W.Va. mining deaths

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Massey Energy has been cited by state regulators in two coal-mining deaths that occurred earlier this year in Greenbrier and Mingo counties, according to reports made public Thursday.

The state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training also cited International Coal Group in the April death of a miner at one of its operations in Raleigh County.

In one of the Massey cases, subsidiary White Buck Coal Co. was cited in the July 1 death of Wilbert R. Starcher, 60, of Orient Hill, at the company's Pocahontas Mine near Rupert.

Starcher, an electrician, was run over by a shuttle car.

State inspectors found that the view of the shuttle car driver was inhibited by the addition of a sideboard that allowed less than one inch of clearance between it and the bottom of the vehicle's canopy.

Inspectors also cited White Buck Coal for seven other alleged violations, including five for improper ventilation of the mine.

At Massey subsidiary Spartan Mining's Ruby Energy operation, James R. Erwin, 55, of Delbarton was pinned between a shuttle car and the mine wall on May 10. Eleven days later, he died from his injuries.

State inspectors cited Massey for a violation of a provision of its state-approved roof control plan that required mining machines to be "operated from a sufficient distance" to protect workers from being hit by the machines or by shuttle cars.

State officials recommended that the company conduct more training to educate workers about the hazards associated with "equipment red zones."  They also recommended that all shuttle car operators be trained to ensure that no one is alongside of their cars or in the turning radius when they turn into or out of a mine entry.

Jeff Gillenwater, a Massey spokesman, said the company frequently trains on the hazards of working around moving equipment and has conducted additional training since these accidents.

In the ICG case, state officials issued their report on the April 22 accident that killed 28-year-old John King at the ICG Beckley subsidiary's Beckley Pocahontas Mine in Raleigh County.

Inspectors cited ICG for a violation of a state law that says mine workers shall not "stand along the side of a boom, or pass or stand along the loading head or cutting head, on a continuous miner or loading machine in operation."

The state report said that King had been warned at least twice about standing in the "red zone" around operational equipment, and that ICG was going to begin taking more serious steps against workers who violate that safety standard.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.

 


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