W.Va. to reopen probe of 2012 coal prep plant fatality

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – A state investigation of a mechanic’s death at a coal preparation plant in West Virginia is being reopened because there are conflicting accounts in federal and state reports on the accident.

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training plans to contact federal investigators about the May 17, 2012, accident at Alpha Natural Resources’ Liberty plant in Boone County, Eugene White, the state’s mine safety director, told the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/WkiSFK ).

White said his office might seek to re-interview witnesses.

Clyde Dolin, 57, of Danville was killed on May 17, 2012, when he fell from a ladder while preparing to use a torch to remove a steal beam above the third floor at the Liberty preparation plant near Uneeda.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said in a December 2012 report that Dolin was using a ladder extension without its base, and that an Alpha foreman helped steady the ladder while Dolin climbed it.

MSHA cited Alpha subsidiary Independence Coal Co. for improper use of the ladder, failing to provide safe access to the beam and failing to require Dolin to wear a safety belt and line. The foreman was not mentioned in the state’s report on the accident, which was issued in August 2012.

White told the state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety last week that state investigators had no record of the foreman holding the ladder.

“We knew he was around the area, but the information that our investigation team collected did not indicate he held the ladder. He might have walked by. We would have addressed that issue if we were aware of it,” he said.

“When MSHA issued this (report), that was the first time we became aware of this,” White said.

White told the board that MSHA might have discovered evidence that the state was not aware of.

Bristol, Va.-based Alpha has not said whether it plans to appeal the federal citations and MSHA has not yet assessed any fines.

“The Liberty plant provided fall protection equipment and training to its employees before the accident occurred, and has since added more equipment such as locating fall protection harnesses on each level of the plant,” Alpha spokesman Ted Pile told the newspaper. “Proper equipment and instruction reduces the risk that a similar fall will occur in the future.”

Alpha acquired Independence Coal when it bought Massey Energy in June 2011.


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