A Mingo County miner with more than 40-years of experience died Wednesday evening while working underground in Boone County. The accident happened bout 5:45pm Wednesday at Newtown Energy’s Peerless Rachel mine at Racine.
State mine safety officials identify the victim as 63-year old Asa Fitzpatrick of Kermit as the man killed. He was operating the roof bolter and according to State Mine Safety Director Eugene White he was installing a rib bolt when a rock from the roof came crashing down on him.
“They were installing bolts in the roof and then put a rib bolt in to bolt a cross cut,” said White. “They lacked about 10-feet of completing the task.”
A second roof bolter was on the opposite side of the machine when the rock fell. White described the rock as slightly larger than a medium sized four-wheeler.
Investigators from the state and MSHA are back on the scene attempting to reconstruction the accident. White said in an effort to aid Fitzpatrick the machine and a few other items had to be moved. Those will be put back into their original place at the time of the accident in hopes of piecing together what went wrong.
White himself visited the mine last week when Governor Earl Ray Tomblin ordered a statewide standdown at all West Virginia mines to refocus on safety.
“When I did the safety stand down talk at this operation, I had complete respect from the miners and the operator,” he said. “They listened completely to my safety talk and there wasn’t a lot of laughing and joking around. It was a pretty sincere meeting.”
Fitzpatrick becomes the 5th miner to die in a West Virginia mine in as many weeks.