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Patriot cited in March rock fall mining death

SUTTON, W.Va. -- State regulators have cited a Patriot Coal subsidiary as a result of their investigation of a March rock fall that killed a miner.

The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training concluded that Patriot's Newtown Energy operation used an unsafe procedure to install wall-control bolts at the company's Peerless Rachel Mine near Racine.

Asa Fitzpatrick, 63, of Kermit, was killed March 13 when a large rock from the mine wall collapsed onto him while he was installing bolts to control the wall, known as a mine rib.

In their investigation report, state officials said they discovered it was "common practice" at the mine for roof bolters to walk under unsupported roof while inserting glue and rib bolts into the holes drilled for those bolts.

"This is considered an unsafe procedure in that it places the operator partially in the unsupported area," the state report said. "This violation is a violation of a health and safety statute [and] is of a serious nature and involved a fatality."

The report was released Tuesday in Sutton during a meeting of the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety.

The Newtown death is one of five coal-mining fatalities in West Virginia so far in 2013.

Patriot Coal officials declined to comment on the report. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is still investigating the death.

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


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