CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An underground mine elevator where a worker was killed in February had a key safety device deactivated and had not been inspected by the mine operator for at least a year, state investigators say in a new report.
The state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training cited Pocahontas Coal Co., owned by Ukraine-based Metinvest B.V., in the Feb. 7 death at the company's Affinity Mine near Sophia, Raleigh County.
Edward L. Finney, 43, of Bluefield, Va., was killed while he was unloading trash from a mine scoop vehicle's bucket, which was positioned on the platform of the elevator, known as a hoist. The scoop fell on Finney when another worker raised the platform and the platform started moving up the elevator shaft.
State investigators said the hoist was equipped with a switch that should have kept the platform from moving while Finney was on it with its gates open.
But, investigators said, the safety switch "had been intentionally defeated." The electrical-magnetic switch had been removed from the gate and taped to the gate's frame assembly, giving the control system a false indication that the gate was closed when it was actually open, state investigators said in their report. After the accident, another worker saw the switch taped to the frame assembly and removed the tape, allowing the switch to fall to the floor, the state report said.
"The accident is a direct result of the intentional defeating of the west gate safety switch," state investigators said. "This condition violates a health or safety rule and is of a serious nature and involves a fatality."
State investigators also found that Affinity mine management had not performed safety or electrical examinations of the hoist equipment for at least a year. Safety examinations are required every 24 hours and electrical exams at least once per week.
Jennifer Guthrie, a spokeswoman for Pocahontas Coal and Metinvest, said the company "takes seriously the findings" of the state report and that the Affinity Mine has "modified its comprehensive safety programs" to incorporate state recommendations.