Task force members sent their recommendations to the board, a six-member body with three members each from industry and labor, all appointed by the governor.
When board members met Wednesday morning in Flatwoods, the task force recommendation was on their agenda, and Caitlin O'Dell was in the audience.
At about 1:20 a.m. on Nov. 30, 2012, 27-year-old Steven O'Dell of Mount Nebo, an electrician at Alpha's subsidiary White Buck Coal's Pocahontas Mine near Rupert, was performing maintenance on a continuous mining machine. Another worker was driving a "scoop" nearby and hit O'Dell, pinning him against the continuous mining machine. O'Dell was transported to the surface and taken to the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in Ronceverte, where he was pronounced dead at 2:29 a.m.
"I'm Stephen O'Dell's widow," Caitlin O'Dell said when she introduced herself to board members. "No matter how many times I say that it doesn't seem real.
"My husband was a good man. He was an intelligent man," she said. "This is Andrew. The son he never got to meet."
Hamilton, the Coal Association lobbyist, said that from his reading of the reports on O'Dell's death, there were factors other than the lack of proximity detectors that played a role in the incident. He noted, for example, that supplies were piled high up on the scoop, partially blocking the driver's view.
Hamilton moved that the board set up a series of meetings looking at a broad range of issues involved in such incidents. Hamilton and the other two industry representatives, Terry Hudson of Patriot Coal and Charles Russell of Arch Coal, voted in favor.
Hudson said his vote shouldn't be seen as an effort to delay regulations requiring proximity devices.
"We're going to be looking at this long and hard and quickly," Hudson said. "We need to put this on the front burner and start moving forward with it. I'm not trying to delay, but we need to work on this."
But the board's three UMW members -- Egnor, Gary Trout and Ted Hapney -- voted against Hamilton's motion, so it failed.
Hamilton went on to argue that the task force's proposed rule would not have prevented O'Dell's death because it would require proximity detectors only on certain continuous mining machines, not on scoops like the one that hit O'Dell.
Trout and Hapney responded with a motion for board administrator Joel Watts to draft a new proposal that would require proximity devices on all types of underground mining equipment, including scoops and shuttle cars.
"I don't think we need to delay," Hapney said. "We need to act now."
The three UMW members voted for the proposal, but the three industry representatives voted against it. With another 3-3 vote, that motion failed.
Hapney then moved that the board put the task force's recommended rule, covering only continuous mining machines, out for public comment.
Again, the industry and labor representatives were split, and the 3-3 tie left that proposal dead as well.
Caitlin O'Dell got up to leave, telling board members as she walked out of the meeting room, "I'm really disappointed. If you can't agree on something, it's going to happen again and at that point, the blood is on your hands."
@tag:Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.