Coal Mine Roof Collapse in WV Results in Two Deaths

Mine with railroad track - underground miningBoone County, WV:  A coal mine roof collapse at the Brody Mine #1 has resulted in the deaths of two miners at the Patriot Coal Corporation owned mine near Wharton, WV.  Added to the grief these families are now experiencing is the anger produced by the knowledge that this mine was known to contain unsafe conditions which had been documented by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in 2013, and that perhaps this tragedy might have been prevented.

It is essential these families seek out the help of an experienced advocate to help them through the legal process which follows such a tragic event.  Some families may not be aware that when a  loved one has been injured or killed while working in a coal mine in West Virginia, they are not only entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits, but also other recoveries from the coal company for “deliberate intention” violations set forth in West Virginia law. Moreover, they may also be entitled to seek a recovery for money damages from any third parties — like equipment manufacturers and subcontractors which contributed to or caused injuries or death.

Preliminary investigations point to a coal outburst, a sudden ejection of gas, rock, and coal from a coal face and surrounding strata as being the catalyst of the roof collapse.   A coal burst can occur as the removal of a pillar shifts the roof’s weight to surrounding ones too weak to handle the added stress. The pillars, often 60 to 80 feet square, are the last remaining coal in a section of a mine that is being abandoned.  The two workers killed in an underground coal mine were performing a risky method known as retreat mining, where the roof is intentionally collapsed to retrieve more coal.

Retreat mining has been going on for generations and is considered standard practice in mines where coal reserves are running out. It involves pulling out supporting pillars of coal from inside the mine and letting the roof collapse as miners and equipment work their way out.  Retreat operations are among the most dangerous in underground mining.

click here for free report buttonIn an October 24, 2013 letter to the safety manager at the Brody Mine, MSHA had identified a pattern of violations which existed at the Brody Mine No. 1, Mine ID 46-09086. According to the letter, “The determination was made on the basis of repeated violations of mandatory health or safety standards at the mine that could significantly and substantially (S&S) contribute to the cause and effect of safety or health hazards.”  The ‘significant and substantial’ violations including roof support hazards, methane hazards, and emergency preparedness and escape hazards.  In addition to MSHA violations at Brody mine – inspectors say the mine failed to report at least 37 injuries to the agency as required by law.

Furthermore, the safety manager at the Brody Mine was warned that “If upon any inspection within 90 days after issuance of this Notice, MSHA finds any violation of a mandatory health or safety standard that could significantly and substantially contribute to the cause and effect of a coal or other mine safety or health hazard, MSHA shall issue an order requiring the operator to cause all persons in the area affected by such violation, except those persons referred to in Section 1 04( c) of the Mine Act, to be withdrawn from, and to be prohibited from entering such area until an Authorized Representative of the Secretary determines that such violation has been abated.”

Safety records show, that the mine had been cited 46 times since 2011, including 16 times in 2013 and this year, for unwarrantable failure to comply with safety rules, which the agency defines as “aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence.” Certainly, though, the blame doesn’t begin or end with only the mine safety manager.  This man was one man in a chain of command, and only one decision maker among many.  This is a time of great sorrow for all involved.

Careful investigation is now underway to find out how and why it happened to provide these families with some answers and hopefully prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

Since January, six accidents have occurred at the mine, including one incident in which a miner’s finger was caught in machinery and a portion had to be amputated, according to MSHA records.  On March 11, gas ignited in an entry of a section of the mine as workers were extracting coal, according to MSHA.  No injuries were reported.  The remaining four accidents involved muscle strains and other minor incidents.

In the meantime, as these families wait for answers, our hearts go out to them.  We have seen first hand the sorrow and strain these families face when seeking justice and financial compensation for the unsafe working conditions and management negligence that led to the explosion and deaths when we successfully represented families after the Sago Mine explosion in 2006 .  May God bless and comfort these families during this difficult time.

 

free e-book buttonSubmitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers located in Morgantown, WV.  Questions?  Call today:  1-304-594-1800 or after hours, 1-304-216-6695 or click here to visit our website to initiate a chat 24/7:  WV Coal Mine Lawyers

Sources:

WBOY News, “Two Deaths Confirmed at Boone County, WV Mine,” by Brandon Millman, May 13, 2014.

U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration pdf of letter to the Brody Mine Safety Manager, by David Mandeville, October 24, 2013.

 

 

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Did you know… There’s “gold” in the Hills of West Virginia?

Potential of Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) for Oil Extraction in West Virginia

Black gold, Texas tea, bubbling crude – since the 1700’s the Appalachian Basin has been a known source of crude oil trapped deep in layers of black shale. Energy prospectors are seeing new potential for oil drilling in the Appalachian Basin, particularly in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia.

Oil wells with pollutionNew developments in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have made previously inaccessible pockets of oil and gas deposits in shale formations accessible and potentially profitable. As the industry expands, the number of workers needed to accomplish this extraction is expected to increase exponentially, creating new opportunities and new revenue for the communities in Central and Southern West Virginia.

As West Virginians know all too well, with this economic opportunity comes risk. Accidents happen in dangerous industries, but many could have been prevented if more training has been accomplished, greater safety measures had been in place and enforced, and if workers had not been worked hours past the point of exhaustion.

Since the severity and duration of workplace injuries which occur in the oil and gas industry are typically far worse than in other employment sectors, oil and gas drilling companies must be held accountable for doing everything within their power to prevent such accidents.

As this industry grows, these modern day prospectors in the oil and gas industry would do well to remember “Safety First” not only for the benefit and safety of workers and the community at large, but also for their own bottom line. Even in this changing economy, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.

What you don’t know can hurt you.  If you have questions about injury claims in WV, click here to receive our report:  7 Facts you Need to Know about WV Injury Claims.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, a West Virginia Personal Injury Law Firm based in Morgantown, WV.  Jeff Robinette, the firm’s founder, is a National Board Certified Trial Attorney with over two decades of experience in successfully handling claims involving workplace injury claims including coal mining injuries, gas well explosions, construction site accidents, toxic exposure, industrial accidents, and construction vehicle and work truck accidents.  Visit our website for more information or call today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in WV after a Mining Fatality

A West Virginia woman is suing the mining company, the mining supervisor in charge of mining safety services, and the manufacturer and distributor of the machinery after her husband was killed on the job in an underground mine. She is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages based on negligence in a lawsuit filed in Pineville, WV in Wyoming Circuit Court.

According to the complaint, this woman’s husband was employed as an underground coal miner when his supervisor started a continuous mining machine, crushing to death this employee who was standing very near the machine.

Coal extraction: Coal mine excavatorWest Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.

Most West Virginians are familiar with Worker’s Compensation Insurance which will cover only a portion of the cost of workplace injuries or financial compensation for a work-related death.

Many do not know, however, that West Virginia has a second avenue for compensation for injured employees, but to pursue this, deliberate intent on the part of the employer must be proved.

To Prove Deliberate Intent on the part of your employer, you must prove:

  • That a specific unsafe working condition existed in the workplace which presented a high degree of risk and a strong probability of serious injury or death;
  • That the employer had a subjective realization and an appreciation of the existence of such a specific unsafe working condition and of the high degree of risk and the strong probability of serious injury or death presented by the unsafe working condition;
  • That the specific unsafe working condition was a violation of a state or federal safety statute, rule, or regulation, whether cited or not, or of a commonly accepted and well-known safety standard within the industry or business of such employer, which statute, rule, regulation, or standard was specifically applicable to the particular work and working condition involved, as contrasted with a statute, rule, regulation, or standard generally requiring safe workplaces, equipment, or working conditions;
  • That the employer thereafter exposed an employee to such specific unsafe working condition intentionally; and
  • That the employee suffered serious injury or death as a direct and proximate result of such specific unsafe working condition.

 In many workplace injury and wrongful death cases, there is a third party who can also be held liable for negligence. The third party can include the manufacturer of a piece of defective industrial equipment, the property owner or a subcontractor working on the same job site.  A skilled personal injury attorney knows how to find all the insurance available to a family after such tragedy.

If you have questions regarding workplace injuries or a wrongful death resulting from a work-related accident, call the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC today to find answers or to order free educational resources to help you make decisions about your best next step. 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

Related Articles:

New Regulations Mandate Proximity Detectors for Continuous Mining Machines

West Virginia Coal Mine Explosion: Many Questions, Few Answers

Quick Report: What you need to know if you have a Workplace Injury

Mining Accident in West Virginia

Source: The West Virginia Record, “Mine Fatality Results in Lawsuit,” by Annie Cosby, April 7, 2014.

Three WV Teens Killed in Head-on Collision with Fire Truck

Due to the sheer physics involved in head-on collisions, the resulting injuries are typically severe and catastrophic. All too often, head-on collisions result in fatal injuries.  Tragically, such was the case in January 2014 when three, 16 year-old teenagers were killed in a violent crash with a fire truck on a Saturday night in Hancock County, W.Va., in the state’s northern panhandle.  The three firefighters were treated at the hospital and released.  I have been seated across the table with families far too many times as they are experiencing the greatest sorrow of their lives.  “If only…” is everyone’s recurring thought.

Sheriff’s officials said the fire truck was traveling north on state Route 8 near Tomlinson Run State Park, responding to a call about a chimney fire at about 9 p.m., when a southbound vehicle pulled into the northbound lane in an attempt to pass another vehicle. The driver was unable to return to the southbound lane and collided with the fire truck from the New Manchester VFD.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a head-on collision caused by another driver’s negligence, it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.  At Robinette Legal Group, we are dedicated to helping injured people and their families recover compensation for the losses they have suffered. We are prepared to handle the most complex cases involving serious injuries and wrongful death.Beside_Still_Waters_-_Covers_3D

We have the skill and resources to handle cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. If you have been seriously injured, an experienced car accident lawyer will carefully assess the full extent of the damage and how it will affect you today and in the future.

West Virginia Motor Vehicle Collision Attorneys:  We Can Help.

Questions?  Call us today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695 or click here to visit our website.

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Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/01/19/Three-high-school-students-die-in-West-Virginia-traffic-accident/stories/201401190199#ixzz2r0B3QtVS

Could the Minneapolis Explosion and Fire Have Been Prevented?

Natural gas can be a relatively inexpensive and efficient heating fuel, but the dangers of explosion, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning which can result in permanent injury or death are safety hazards which must be, and can be, prevented by homeowners and landlords.

Gas Explosion Suspected as Cause of Minneapolis Apartment Fire

Recently in Minneapolis, MN fourteen people were hurt, at least three critically, and two bodies discovered as a result of an explosion and fire that rocked a three-story apartment building in Minneapolis in early January 2014, forcing residents to jump from windows and flee to the streets into subzero temperatures.

By the time firefighters arrived, smoke and 20-foot flames were pouring out of the second and third stories of the building, and residents were jumping out of the windows.

Explosive devices have been ruled out by investigators.  Residents reported a natural gas odor shortly before the explosion, though some investigators deny any natural gas lines running in or near the building.  Other types of gas are also being considered as possible causes for the spark which caused the explosion.

It is horrible to think of all of these people in this mostly Somali neighborhood having to evacuate and lose their homes and possessions in sub-zero weather, reportedly as low as -4˚F with a -24˚F wind-chill, having to run out into ice and snow covered streets to attempt to gain safety for themselves and their children.  Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of this explosion; it is not yet known who or what was at fault.

West Virginia Natural Gas Fatal House Explosion

In October of 2013, a similarly tragic situation occurred in Follansbee, WV, a small town south of Weirton in Brooke County.  A family had recently purchased and was still moving into this home when an explosion likely caused by a natural gas leak obliterated this rural West Virginia home.  Tragically, this violent explosion killed their 13-year-old daughter and seriously injured three others.  The blast was so powerful it shook the entire neighborhood, blew out the windows of a nearby fire station, sent plywood siding rocketing nearly 50 feet into the air, and shot boards through other houses.  Three other houses were damaged – one knocked off its foundation.natural gas explosion in neighborhood

In addition to the fatality, the girl’s parents and a sister were injured and taken to hospitals.  An especially tragic aspect of this story is that half an hour before the explosion, a neighbor had called local authorities to report a possible gas leak.  The fire department responded, but found nothing.  Shortly after they left, the house exploded.

Investigators are trying to determine whether or not the gas leaked in the house from an outside source, or was a leak within the house.  Either way, when the gas reached a high enough concentration, even the most mundane action could have deadly consequences.  Once the concentration is high enough, all it takes is a pilot light or even a light switch being switched on to cause an explosion.

How can you prevent a natural gas explosion from happening in your home?

Explosions such as the ones in West Virginia and Minneapolis are rare, but I advise that homeowners and landlords have an approved maintenance worker check for leaks around stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters.  Firefighters in every county in WV receive dozens of natural gas related calls each year from homeowners like you.

When purchasing an appliance, look for the UL markup to ensure it has met safety standards, and if you are purchasing a used item, have it checked by a knowledgeable professional.

If you do smell the “rotten egg scent” from the odorant added to natural gas, mercaptan, react quickly and shut off the source if possible, and call a professional or 9-1-1.  If the scent is strong, evacuate the house or building, get a safe distance from it, and call emergency help immediately.  Do not smoke, use a lighter or flashlight, cell phone, turn on a light switch, or use other electronic devices in or near the house.  If possible, turn off the gas from the outside of the home.

Wise homeowners can also install a gas detector to make sure your home and family doesn’t suffer the effects of a natural gas leak.

Homeowners should also have their furnace and water heater exhaust pipes checked regularly for safety to prevent backup and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Landlord’s Obligation for Safety of Rental Property

West Virginia landlords are required to maintain a leased property in a condition that meets requirements of applicable health, fire, and safety housing codes.

Sometimes a natural gas leak is caused in part by the negligence of a landlord, repair technician, or faulty piece of equipment. Landlords and professional service technicians are held to the highest standards of accountability for the safety of those they serve.

One of the problems that city and county building inspectors face is that many older buildings are not equipped with modern electrical and gas services and alarms throughout the buildings.   These older buildings were “grandfathered in” decades ago when stricter building codes were adopted.

This allows some landlords to do minimal repairs on their buildings, and never comply with current building and safety codes.   However, some cities and counties have required work permits on every kind of repair to certain buildings, and before the permit is granted, an inspection is done and the building is required to come up to code.

Some landlords skirt these requirements by doing the work themselves, under the radar of the city.   When they are caught doing the work without a permit, they risk having their building closed down.     No city or town can keep up on the status of every building.    When a tragedy does strike, there may be significant responsibility on the landlord, and perhaps the building inspectors, for allowing an unsafe building to be occupied.

That’s why you need knowledgeable and skilled lawyers to enforce the rules.   Remember, trial lawyers are for the public’s safety, we enforce the rules when others won’t.

Questions?  Call us today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

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 Sources:

Silver, Jonathan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “West Virginia Girl Killed in Natural Gas Explosion,” October 11, 2013.

Forliti, Amy.  ABC News. “Body of Second Victim Found after Minneapolis Fire.”  January 3, 2014.

Head-on Collision in Harrison County

Anyone who drives knows the care that must be applied when meeting oncoming traffic, especially at high speeds. Nonetheless, drivers cause head-on collisions every day, putting innocent lives at risk.  Due to the sheer physics involved in head-on collisions, the resulting injuries are typically severe and catastrophic, and all too often, head-on collisions result in fatal injuries.

For example, on November 20, 2013 in Harrison County a pick-up truck traveling east on Route 50 crossed the median, hitting a Subaru Forester traveling westbound before rolling over the embankment.  Two Air Evac Medical Teams out of Wetzel County were called to the scene on Highway 50.  Tragically, sheriff’s officials confirmed that this accident resulted in the death of the two men who were in the Subaru.  At the time of this posting, it is not know what was the cause of the truck crossing the median and the current medical condition of driver of the pick-up.  In cases where there are no outside witnesses to a collision, particularly in cases where death has resulted, accident reconstruction experts will be called in to provide these grieving families with some answers as to how the accident occurred and who was at fault.

One week later, on Route 57 in Harrison County, a 16 year old female driver with an 18 year old passenger was attempting to pass on a curve in a no-passing zone and lost control of her vehicle and slid into traffic in the eastbound lane.  The horrible result was that two teen girls’ lives were cut short, and the two occupants of the eastbound car are receiving treatment for serious injuries; one determined now to be in fair condition, but the other is still in very serious condition.

How do head-on collisions occur?

Head-on collisions can occur when:

  • A driver falls asleep at the wheel and swerves into oncoming traffic
  • A driver loses control on ice
  • A driver swerves to avoid hitting a deer or other animal
  • A drunk driver crosses lanes
  • A motorist drives the wrong way on a one-way lane or approach
  • A driver attempts to pass other vehicles in an illegal or unsafe manner

At Robinette Legal Group, we are dedicated to helping injured people and their families recover compensation for the losses they have suffered. We are prepared to handle the most complex cases involving serious injuries and wrongful death.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a head-on collision caused by another driver’s negligence, it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.

We have the skill and resources to handle cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. If you have been seriously injured, an experienced car accident lawyer will carefully assess the full extent of the damage and how it will affect you today and in the future. We take everything into account, including your need for ongoing medical treatment, physical therapy, adaptive equipment and other needs.

For families that have lost loved ones in fatal car accidents, we apply the same thorough approach. We will help you pursue compensation for lost earnings, loss of companionship, emotional pain and suffering and other damages. We are committed to helping you obtain the resources you need to make it through this difficult time.

Contact Us

Contact us to learn how we can help you recover full and fair money damages for your head-on accident injuries and financial losses. From our offices in Morgantown, we represent clients in car accident and motor vehicle injury cases throughout West Virginia.  If you have questions concerning a head on collision, call us today at 304-594-1800 or 304-216-6695 after hours to obtain the answers you need today.

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Source:  WBOY News, “Update: Route 50 Eastbound Near Dog Run Closed Following Vehicle Crash” November 20,2013.

Sanitation Worker Killed by Tree Limb

In May 2013, a sanitation worker collecting trash in an alley in Moundsville, West Virginia, was killed when a broken limb fell from a tree and struck him in the head as he was collecting trash.

The limb was apparently damaged in a recent storm; it is unclear whether the truck struck the branch.  The worker suffered a massive head injury and was transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

This was called a “freak” accident, but legally, could there have been any premises liability for this fatal injury?

How Healthy are Your Trees?  Danger Signs:

tree fall in parkBroken branches (called “widow makers” by arborists)

Weak branch unions

Old wounds

Ooze or fungus indicating decay

Sharp bends

Excessive pruning

Cracks

Cavity indicating advanced decay

As a home and property owner, you have a legal duty to keep your family and neighbors safe from tree hazards as much as it depends on you.  This list is not all-inclusive, so if you have any doubt about the soundness of the trees on your property, hire a specialist to inspect and evaluate safety issues.

How to Identify Tree Risks on your Property

Tree owners are not expected to have the expertise of a certified arborist in evaluating tree risk, but there are common defects and situations for which a tree owner may be held responsible as a “reasonable person” in the eyes of the law.

A hazard tree is one that has both a defect that may cause it to break apart or blow over prematurely and a target that could be damaged if the tree were to fail. A tree that has dead branches overhanging a sidewalk or street is a hazard because the dead branches may break off, striking a car or pedestrian. Without a potential target, a tree cannot be considered hazardous. Targets include houses, cars, outdoor decks, and, of course, people.

We recommend that private tree owners should inspect their trees twice annually: when the leaves are on the tree (spring and summer) and, for deciduous species, when the leaves are off the trees (late fall and winter).

Tree owners should also inspect their trees after severe wind events and storms. This is important because strong winds frequently cause tree damage such as broken branches, and cracks in the trunk.

Checking trees immediately following storms will help reduce the risk of defects becoming more severe and subsequently causing personal injury or property damage

Traditional Standard for Tree Owner Liability

The liability United States tree owners face from hazardous trees on their private properties has and continues to undergo a transformation.

The traditional common law legal test focused upon whether a tree owner had acted to create a hazardous condition on the property. When a tree owner did not act to create a hazardous condition on his or her property, the law did not hold the tree owner responsible for tree accidents. Essentially the law would not impose liability for the tree owner’s failure to act to remedy a natural hazard.

Only in cases where the tree owner had in some way acted to create or increase the risk of harm would liability attach to the tree owner. For example, removing a portion of a stand of trees, thus leaving the remainder susceptible to wind throw could be an example where a human act created a potentially dangerous tree situation.

Modern Trend for Dangerous Tree Litigation

Legal liability for private tree owners by structurally deficient trees or tree limbs has been undergoing a legal evolution over the last four decades.

The modern trend is towards a test that imposes greater responsibility and greater uncertainty on tree owners and arborists.

Abandoning the natural/artificial distinction, the modern test, adopted in half the U.S. jurisdictions, imposes general principles of negligence on tree owners.

Courts in each of the “modern” U.S. jurisdictions, however, have ruled in falling tree and tree-related cases that tree owners owe a duty to both passersby and other property owners to prevent harm to them from potentially dangerous objects on their properties.

The direction in which the trend appears to be proceeding raises the stakes for tree owners. Whereas immunity from legal liability may have previously existed, such liability can now more easily result from a tree owner’s actions or failure to act. The responsibilities of individual tree owners, particularly in urban areas, have increased in many states, and nothing suggests that the trend will abate.

Since the U.S. legal trend is clearly toward greater liability for hazardous trees, this warrants paying closer attention to the condition of one’s trees more than ever before.

Example of a Tree Liability Case

An example in the state of South Carolina was a lawsuit involving a decayed tree limb which fell onto an adjoining property owner’s land, striking and destroying an occupied automobile and injuring its occupant.

The tree owner argued that the law did not impose any duty of inspection on a tree whose limbs happened to overhang an adjoining business property.  The court did not agree, determining that while that may have been the prior rule, the modern rule requires the exercise of reasonable care to prevent dangerous trees from causing such injuries.

Negligence in Tree Management

To recover for injuries or damages caused by a falling tree or portion of a tree, an injured party must demonstrate that:

a tree owner had some duty to prevent the harm,

  • the tree owner breached that duty,
  • the breach was the cause of the injured party’s harm.

Since the modern trend is to establish in law a duty on the part of the tree owner to identify and repair or eliminate dangerous or hazardous conditions on the property, the modern threshold test is merely, was the dangerous object under the control or supervision of the tree owner?

But how does a court assess whether the tree in question was in fact hazardous or dangerous, and additionally, whether the tree owner’s legal duty to eliminate the hazard was triggered?

The legal principle at work essentially states that if a tree owner is actually aware, or should have been aware, of a defect or risk posed by a tree, remedial action is warranted, even required.  A tree owner must act as a reasonable person would have acted in the same circumstances.

West Virginia Premises Liability Attorneys

If you have suffered as a result of a fallen tree, broken limbs, or injured by any other premises hazard, we are here to help.  If you have any questions or are not sure if you have a case, call Jeff Robinette of the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC today and get the answers and help you need.  Call today:  304-594-1800 or 24 hour line:  304-216-6695.

Sources:

http://wvmetronews.com/2013/05/18/moundsville-sanitation-worker-killed-in-freak-accident/

Hazard tree liability in the United States: Uncertain risks for owners and professionals, by Michael J. Mortimer and Brian Kane, 2004:  http://www.summit-tree.com/pubs/Hazard%20Tree%20Liability.pdf‎

 

 

Consol Found to be at Fault for Slurry Impoundment Collapse

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training has cited Consolidation Coal Co. for the coal slurry impoundment collapse that killed one in November.

The haulage road on the coarse refuse dump area was not safe to drive on, according to the agency’s July 10 report on the incident.

“This is a violation of a Health and Safety statute of serious nature involving a fatality,” the report reads.

Coal mine slurry pondIn the November 30 incident at the Robinson Run mine in Harrison County, experienced miner Markel J. Koon, age 58, was running a bulldozer on the haulage road about noon when the dump site cracked and failed, sweeping the dozer, with Koon, into the impoundment.

The report details evidence that the location was not safe.

Consolidation Coal engineer Paul Stuart Carter had received numerous email messages from supervisor Michael Friedline over the previous week about high readings on a piezometer on the upstream slope, according to the report. A piezometer measures water pressure and is used to monitor stability of a dam.

Carter arrived at the mine at about 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, and the two walked the slope and noticed bubbling — more, in Friedline’s observation, than even that morning.  Carter said, “we need to get off the fill.” Friedline instructed Koon by radio to leave the fill, and Koon had begun moving the dozer when a large crack began to develop. Large sections immediately broke off, sliding into the thick slurry and carrying Friedline, Carter, their pickup trucks, and the bulldozer and Koon with it.

Friedline and Carter were quickly rescued. The recovery of Koon’s body on Dec. 14 concluded an extensive recovery operation.

The section that failed, according to the report, was more than 600 feet long, 50 feet wide and 24 feet high. The depth of slurry where the dozer came to rest was 27 feet.

In addition to citing the company, Miners Health Safety and Training recommended the company train employees on hazards of working near water, and that life jackets should be worn by all employees working near water.

It is not clear whether that would have helped Koon.

Further recommendations may be issued when all of the information has been reviewed, the report said.

For Full Story of Markel Koon Recovery Efforts:  http://wvaccidentlawyer.org/2012/12/01/consol-miner-missing/

Legal Insight — Work-related Wrongful Death Claims

West Virginia workers have had a long-standing tradition of persevering and working hard in spite of dangerous and exhausting conditions.  In most cases, the family of a worker who is killed on the job will be able to receive some benefits from a Worker’s Compensation claim.  In West Virginia, if employer is found to have intentionally placed their employee in harm’s way, resulting in serious injury or death, that family may qualify to file a claim against the employer’s insurance company.

Workers’ compensation laws say that you cannot hold your employer accountable for damages above the amount of benefits paid by the workers’ comp insurance unless you can prove the employer acted with “deliberate intent,” as provided in W. Va. Code 23-4-2.

In many workplace injury and wrongful death cases, however, there may also be a third party who can be held liable for negligence. The third party can include the manufacturer of a piece of defective industrial equipment, the property owner or a subcontractor working on the same job site.

If you or your loved one has died due to negligence or willful violation of safety regulations in the workplace, it is important to act quickly to protect your claim.  Mr. Robinette has handled hundreds of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death and can provide the insight you need right now.  Call Jeff Robinette today for a free evaluation of your case at 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695 or visit our website for more information.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers.  Free books — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care:  WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters:  WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

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Source: The State Journal, July 10, 2013, Pam Kasey http://www.statejournal.com/story/22809250/supervisor-had-concerns-before-consol-slurry-impoundment-fell-in#.Ud6WooeXXPI.twitter

Tired Truckers Protest New Regulations

FedEx Truck Crash on I-79New Rules for Truckers

In an effort to increase safety on our roadways and reduce driver fatigue, a leading factor in large truck crashes, the Department of Transportation has updated its mandates for breaks and rest periods for long haul truckers.

Tired drivers are far more likely to cause accidents than those who are well rested and driving in compliance with federal trucking guidelines. Tired drivers may also enter a dangerous state known as “highway hypnosis” in which dozens of miles may pass that they do not even remember. Whether a driver falls asleep at the wheel or is inattentive due to lack of sleep, the resulting accidents can lead to catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.

New Schedule Guidelines for Truckers

Starting Monday, drivers will have to stick to a schedule that requires taking a 30-minute break in the first eight hours of driving, cut the maximum workweek to 70 hours from 82, and “restart” those 70 hours with a 34-hour break once a week.

The rules are part of a program to make U.S. highways safer by reducing the number of truck accidents and fatalities. The program also includes a safety rating system that shippers can review when they chose a new carrier, with the goal of prodding the trucking industry to further improve the safety of its drivers and equipment.

Recent Examples of Driving Fatigue in West Virginia

Driver fatigue is a dangerous condition on highways throughout West Virginia. Federal laws regulate how many miles a truck driver can travel per day, per week and on consecutive days. All too often, however, truck drivers push these limits to increase profits or because they are pressured by their employers. In either case, the lives of innocent motorists, passengers and pedestrians are put at risk.

  • This year in Doddridge County three people were injured when an ambulance driver had fallen asleep while driving.  The driver said he was traveling toward Parkersburg when the vehicle ran off the roadway and ended up in the guard rail and a ravine, according to West Virginia State Police.
  • Last July, Richard Detamore was killed when he and coworker Jacob Rowan Forrest were ejected from their vehicle. Now Ashley Detamore is suing her husband’s employer, Nabors Well Services for negligence and wrongful death.  She said the Nabors company knew her husband and Forrest, both truckers for Nabors, had worked more than 30 hours in a 48-hour span.
  • In October, 2012 near Morgantown, WV a FedEx truck was traveling north in the southbound lanes shortly before 1 a.m. when the driver tried to make a U-turn to correct his direction.  The FedEx driver caused a truck accident when he struck a tractor-trailer which then crossed the median into the northbound lanes and crashed through a guardrail on the east edge of the road.

What does the Trucking Industry Think About New Rules?

But the trucking industry—which has sued to have the rules reversed—is warning that they will mean more highway traffic and high shipping costs for consumers. Truckers are saying, “If I get any more breaks out here I won’t be able to make a living.”

What the complainers are missing is that trucking is dangerous when drivers are too tired to be on full alert at all times.   Slugging out the last hundred miles every day is what the new laws are designed to address.   The truckers should actually “rest” during the rest stops instead of playing arcade games, going gambling or watching movies.   That is not rest.

The new rules are predicted to prevent 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries, and saving 19 lives each year.  The DOT says the new rules will also produce a broader economic benefit. The department’s analysis found that in 2009 alone, large truck and bus accidents cost some $20 billion in medical and insurance costs, infrastructure damage, lost wages and productivity. The analysis also estimated $470 million in benefits from reduced driver mortality.

 Jeff Robinette, West Virginia Truck Accident Attorney

Jeff Robinette is a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has focused his practice on motor vehicle accidents.  Our office is in Morgantown, but we represent clients in car accident and motor vehicle injury cases in Monongalia County, Taylor County, Doddridge County, Marion County, and Preston County, West Virginia.

Free Books for WV Accident Victims

Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families. We are glad to answer your questions.

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Gas Well Fire in Doddridge County WV Legal Insight

On Sunday July 7th, 2013,  Antero officials reported five workers were injured in a gas well pad explosion at about 4:00 a.m. at a Doddridge County, WV gas drilling site off Brushy Fork Road near New Milton, WV.  The five men were taken to the West Penn Burn Center and are being treated for various degrees of burns.  Regular operations have been shut down at the Antero Resources well site after the two explosions on Sunday morning.  Most of the injured are in severe critical condition and some have required surgery.

The men who suffered burn injuries were working for contracting companies — three men from Nabors Completion and Production Service, one from C and R Downhole Drilling LLC, and a worker who is employed by Willowbend Investments Incorporated.  The identities of the men and their conditions have not been released.  Antero operates 15 drilling sites in seven counties in West Virginia.  This is the second explosion at an Antero site within a year in West Virginia.  Two deaths resulted from this tragic incident.Gas Well Fire Doddridge County WV

Right now investigators believe a pump which the employees were working on may have ignited gas vapors which caused an explosion, causing two tanks to rupture and causing damage to other tanks.  The diesel engine pump, which had malfunctioned, was being used to push data logging equipment down into the horizontal wellbore, which had been drilled and hydraulically fractured, by pumping fluid behind it.  The well had been drilled recently, and the crew was in the final stages of completing the well.  Workers were inserting a narrow production tube into the metal casing around the drilled hole when methane gas somehow ignited.  Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that fumes that had volatilized and accumulated inside the tanks and exploded.

The fluid that was contained in two tanks next to the pump was “produced water” which is a fluid that comes back up from wells which may contain explosive volatile organic compounds.  DEP spokeswoman said Monday the blast ruptured two tanks containing flow back water that Antero had been reusing, but the secondary containment system captured the fluid as designed and none left the site. There was no contamination to any nearby streams, she said, and the nearest home is about a half-mile away so it was unaffected.

Legal Insight You Need for Your Gas Well Injury Claim


West Virginia workers have had a long-standing tradition of persevering and working hard in spite of dangerous and exhausting conditions.  As the oil and gas drilling industry grows, an increasing number of workers are experiencing accidents resulting in serious permanent injuries and wrongful death.

In most cases, a worker who is injured on the job will be able to receive some benefits from a Worker’s Compensation claim.  In West Virginia, if employer is found to have intentionally placed their employee in harm’s way, resulting in serious injury or death, that employee may qualify to file a claim against the employer’s insurance company.

Many injured workers think that their financial damages for medical bills and lost earnings are limited to West Virginia workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ compensation laws say that you cannot hold your employer accountable for damages above the amount of benefits paid by the workers’ comp insurance unless you can prove the employer acted with “deliberate intent,” as provided in W. Va. Code 23-4-2.

In many workplace injury and wrongful death cases, however, there may also be a third party who can be held liable for negligence. The third party can include the manufacturer of a piece of defective industrial equipment, the property owner or a subcontractor working on the same job site.

If you or your loved one has been injured due to negligence or willful violation of safety regulations in the workplace, it is important to act quickly to protect your claim.  Mr. Robinette has handled hundreds of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death and can provide the insight you need right now.  Call Jeff Robinette today for a free evaluation of your case at 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695 or visit our website for more information.

We are glad to provide free books and information for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide:  304-594-1800.

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For More Information:  WBOY news, July 8th, 2013:  http://www.wboy.com/story/22776291/gas-well-workers-injured-in-explosion#.Udq5ObZMY_0.twitter

West Virginia State Journal, July 8th, 2013:  http://www.statejournal.com/story/22782306/basic-details-still-coming-in-on-sunday-antero-wellpad-explosion

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