WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal mine safety investigators have concluded proper safety procedures were not followed leading to the death of a coal miner last year in Raleigh County.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released its final report Thursday from its investigation into the Oct. 23, 2017 death of James Ray Adkins, 48, of Colcord. He was a fire boss and belt man at Marfork Coal Company’s Horse Creek Eagle Deep Mine near Clear Creek. He had been a coal miner for 18 years.
According to the report, Adkins was performing his pre-shift coal belt examination before the day shift when he fell into the mine’s No. 1 belt while attempting to cross the belt at the tailpiece instead of returning to the crossunder 95-feet away. Investigators said at about the same time as the fall the belt was started up from the outside after the dispatcher had radioed four warnings.
Adkins was carried approximately 7.2 miles. His body was eventually found in a raw coal stockpile at the Marfork Processing Plant near Pettus. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
It was later discovered by investigators that the place where Adkins fell onto the belt was a popular crossing point for examiners.
“This crossing was apparently used as a shortcut instead of the nearest crossunder, which was 95 feet away,” the report said.
The report also indicated a miner falling onto the No. 1 belt would have had a difficult time getting off.
“The belt was suspended from the roof by chains spaced every ten feet for the entire length of the belt. The clearance between the roof and the belt was as small as twenty inches, making it extremely difficult for a miner to exit the fast-moving belt after falling,” the report said.
The MSHA report said the root cause of the accident was “proper safety procedures were not followed while performing a conveyor belt examination.”
The agency issued one Safeguard Notice to Markfork Coal Company and the company has taken corrective action including constructing more crossover points along the beltline for examiners, installing a visual and audible belt pre-start alarm at each underground tailpiece and installing conveyor belt and pull cord plugs at each remote belt switch along the conveyor belt so someone can pull them and stop the belt.
At the time of his death, Adkins was the seventh miner killed in West Virginia in 2017.