BISHOP, W.Va. –Federal and state mine investigators continue to probe the death of a Virginia man at a McDowell County coal operation.
The victim, Jason Kenneth Matthews, 43, of Bluefield, Va., was a plant floor man, according to the state Office of Mine Safety Health and Training.
McDowell County Sheriff Martin West said a report filed by one of his deputies at the scene Monday night indicated Matthews died just after 10 p.m. from injuries suffered in a fall at the J.C. Jim Justice II Preparation Plant operated by Justice Low Seam Mining which is a division of Southern Coal Corporation in the small community of Squire.
“The victim had been attempting to make repairs inside the preparation plant and had fallen onto a belt line,” said West. “The officer was advised the victim fell off the belt line approximately 20 feet into a coal bin.”
Southern Coal Corporation is owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice who issued a statement Tuesday morning in regard to the accident.
“My heart is heavy with the sad news out of Squire. Cathy and I ask all West Virginians to join us in praying for the lost coal miner and his family. Tragic accidents like this just break all of our hearts and our state is grateful to have a close-knit mining community that steps up on these most difficult days.”
Justice stepped away from his management of the company when he became governor and the operations are now overseen by his son Jay.
West added the deputy was initially dispatched to the mine and told the man had suffered serious injuries, but was later advised on his way to the scene the victim had died.
Southern Coal Corporation Vice-President of Safety and Health Patrick Graham issued a statement soon after the incident.
“The exact cause of the accident is still not known. Both Southern Coal and the mining agencies have people on site to determine the cause of this terrible accident. Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of this dedicated miner and team member. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers. The name of the deceased miner is being withheld until the family is notified.”
A moment of silence was held in the House of Delegates Tuesday in connection with the death.
An investigation into the cause of the accident continues.