Federal and state investigators have issued conflicting reports on the November 2005 death of Chad Cook, a coal truck driver killed on a Mettiki Coal haul road along the Grant-Tucker County line.
Cook, 25, was killed shortly after midnight on Nov. 8, 2005, when his truck ran off the road, rolled over and collided with a guardrail.
State and federal mine safety officials did not investigate the incident until nearly two years later, after a Charleston Gazette report questioned the lack of an official probe.
Now, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is blaming Cook. MSHA concluded Cook was driving too fast and lost control of his vehicle.
But state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training officials drew no such conclusions in their own report, made public Wednesday morning.
Terry Farley, administrator of the state agency, said the delay in launching an investigation made it impossible to gather enough evidence to figure out what really happened.
Farley told the state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety that the agency report on Cook's death "doesn't attempt to draw conclusions in the way we usually would."
Among other things, Farley noted that his agency could not examine Cook's truck.
"We can't come to the conclusion that there was some individual error by the driver," Farley told board members during a Wednesday morning meeting.
State and federal mine safety agencies did not investigate Cook's accident when it occurred. They were convinced at the time that it occurred on a public road that was not part of Mettiki's operations.
After being contacted by Cook's family, the Gazette found that Cook was killed on a haul road that had been part of Department of Environmental Protection mining permits since at least 1980.
At the entrance to the Mountain View Mine Road, a huge sign warns drivers: "This is a private road and not for public use." A smaller sign lists the road's DEP permit numbers.
At the Mettiki site, truckers for contractor Savage Industries haul clean coal from a preparation plant in Maryland into West Virginia, and up W.Va. 93 to the Mount Storm Power Station. On their way back, they pick up loads of raw coal from a Mettiki underground mine and haul them to the preparation plant.
In its report, MSHA said that agency inspector Phillip M. Wilt determined the morning after the accident that Cook had died "on a private road that was a short cut" between Maryland state Route 90 and W.Va. 93.