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MSHA: Miner death result of working in unsafe spot, poor training

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The March 7 death of a mine operator at a Greenbrier County mine was the result of the victim being in an unsafe location and the poor training he received.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration on Thursday released its final report on the death of 38-year-old Adam DeBoard, who worked at the Blue Knob Surface Mine.

According to the report, DeBoard was helping other miners remove the underground components of a highwall mining machine in the Sewell A. Seam near Rupert. His head became caught between a push beam that was being removed and a stationary metal support post.

Wade Nichols, the foreman and operation, saw DeBoard fall and pressed the emergency stop button to the machine.

Authorities responded to the scene; DeBoard died and his body was transported to Greenbrier Valley Medical Center.

Investigators reported that before his death, DeBoard was standing in a small metal section between the second level of the machine and steps to the ground, which was common practice at the mine.

“The small section where the victim was standing was not intended to be a work area because of the proximity of the moving push beams,” the report said. “Each push beam was moving approximately 12 to 18 inches in front of the victim as it was raised, moved horizontally, and lowered by the cradle/hoist to the holder.”

The report noted Nichols and other miners knew the victim was standing in that location and they believed the area was safe. MSHA said DeBoard should have waited on the platform.

“If positioned on the platform, each push beam removed would be moved away from the victim. After the push beam was placed in the holder, the victim could have shoveled the mud. The victim would have then returned to the platform before the highwall mining machine operator extended the power head to connect to the next beam to be removed,” it stated.

DeBoard, who began working as a mine operator in May 2017, received task training on the highwall mining machine in May 2018. The training did not address the spot where DeBoard was standing before his death.

“The accident occurred because the mine operator did not identify the location of the accident as a pinch area and did not train the victim to avoid the pinch area,” MSHA concluded.

South Fork Coal Company operates the highwall mining machine.

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