CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia officials are going to reopen their investigation of the May 2012 death of a longtime coal preparation plant mechanic to look into conflicting accounts of the incident presented in reports by state and federal investigators.
Eugene White, director of the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, said his agency would contact federal investigators and perhaps seek to reinterview witnesses in a fatal accident at an Alpha Natural Resources coal preparation plant.
"We're going to do that," White said after a discussion of the matter during a meeting of the state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety.
At issue are the findings of conflicting state and federal reports on the May 17, 2012, death of 57-year-old Clyde Dolin of Danville. Dolin, who had 37 years of mining experience, was killed when he fell near an elevator at Alpha subsidiary Independence Coal's Liberty Processing Plant near Uneeda along Robinson Creek.
At the time of the accident, Dolin was preparing to use a torch to cut and remove a 12-inch steel beam that was located above the third floor of the preparation plant. The beam was being moved to prevent it from interfering with the movement of material and supplies being hoisted into the facility.
In a December report, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said that the accident occurred "because of management's failure to ensure equipment was used and maintained in safe working order." Dolin was using an extension portion of a ladder without the ladder base, contrary to the manufacturer's recommendations, MSHA said.
MSHA investigators said they found that improper ladder use had become a common practice at the facility, and that an Alpha foreman, James Maynard, was present at the work area immediately prior to the accident and helped steady the ladder while Dolin climbed to perform the work.
"Maynard allowed the ladders to be used despite their condition and despite the presence of conspicuous warning labels attached to the ladder extensions," the MSHA report said. "Maynard engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence."
MSHA cited the company for improper use of the ladder, failing to provide a safe means of access to the beam Dolin was to cut, and not requiring Dolin to wear a safety belt and line while working in the elevated location.
Federal officials have not yet assessed fines for the citations, and Alpha has not said if it plans to appeal the cited violations.