CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One West Virginia coal miner was killed, two others were injured, and the search continued Friday night for a fourth miner, following incidents at an underground mine in Greenbrier County and a coal-slurry impoundment in Harrison County, mine safety regulators and company officials said.
Early Friday, Steve O'Dell, 27, of Mount Nebo, was killed when he was pinned between a continuous mining machine and another piece of equipment called a scoop. That incident occurred at the Pocahontas Mine, an Alpha Natural Resources operation near Rupert.
Then, shortly after noon, part of a coal-waste embankment gave way at Consol Energy's Robinson Run operation in Harrison County, sending a bulldozer and two pickup trucks sliding into the complex's huge slurry impoundment.
Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, called the Robinson Run incident a "massive failure" at the impoundment. She said the incident occurred at about 12:15 p.m.
"One dozer operator and two engineers were on top of the platform when the failure occurred," Louviere said.
Lynn Seay, media relations director for Consol, said one employee was treated and released from a local hospital. A second employee was flown by medical helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where he was listed as stable. A third employee remains unaccounted for, Consol said.
"Today, four families were shaken by the unexpected but always present danger associated with mining," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement Friday night. "While we strive to ensure the safety of our coal miners, accidents do occur. Joanne and I pray for the miners and their families. We ask all West Virginians to do the same."
Just before 5 p.m., rescue officials at Robinson Run who were using sonar found what they believed to be the missing bulldozer and developed plans for a dive team to explore the location, said Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin. But the team did not uncover the dozer and divers pulled out of that location just before 7 p.m., Goodwin said.
Kathy Cosco, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the incident involved a "significant collapse" of a pad being built in the pool area of Consol's Nolan Run impoundment near Lumberport.
Consol said that the embankment "remains unstable and continues to shift, creating difficult rescue conditions."
However, Cosco said DEP engineers, in consultation with MSHA, "determined that no immediate risk of failure of the impoundment exists at this time and no evacuations are necessary or anticipated."
The area of the pad that failed is about 200 yards long and 200 feet wide, Cosco said, and is about 1,000 feet away from the impoundment's main dam. Emergency response crews have been draining the impoundment using its existing dewatering system, which pumps into a nearby freshwater pond, where the material is filtered and treated before being discharged into Robinson Run.