CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's mine safety chief Eugene White this morning defended a "safety stand down" ordered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in the wake of another mining death at an operation where White personally delivered a safety talk as part of the governor's program.
"I really felt good about the stand down," White said in an interview. "I felt like it did some good."
At about 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday, 63-year-old Asa Fitzpatrick of Kermit was killed in a roof fall at Newtown Energy Inc.'s Peerless Rachel Mine near Racine in Boone County.
Fitzpatrick was a roof-bolter machine operator with 40 years' mining experience, state officials said. St. Louis-based Patriot Coal controls the Peerless Rachel Mine, which employs about 140 people.
"We express our deepest sympathies to Asa's family, friends and coworkers," said Michael D. Day, Patriot's executive vice president for operations. "We are fully cooperating with state and federal mine regulatory officials as we investigate this incident."
White said his investigators, along with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, are just beginning a probe of the Newtown fatality, so it's too soon to say much about what may have caused the incident.
But White did say that the mine roof at Peerless Rachel showed signs of slickensides, which are areas of smooth-surfaced geologic features that are often indications of potentially dangerous roof conditions.