Preston County WV Worker Killed at a Coal Mine Reclamation Site

Worker Killed in Preston County at Mine Reclamation Site

KINGWOOD, WV: – A contract worker helping in the installation of a water treatment system at the former Decondor Coal site in Preston County died on the job Tuesday when a ditch at a mine reclamation site caved in on him.  This worker was employed by Breakaway Inc. out of Sutton, West Virginia.

When a mining permit for this location was revoked, the reclamation work responsibility was transferred to the state.

The local police and the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will investigate the incident to determine the cause, fault, and possible negligence or safety violations.

Click Here to Learn More about the Legal and Criminal Ramifications After a Workplace Accident or Fatality and a Family’s Legal Rights

WV Lawsuit After Severe Head Injury in Coal Mine

West Virginia Coal Miner Injured, Files Lawsuit

Brain Injury, Work Accident
Brain Injury, WV Coal Mine Accident

Every year, miners suffer serious injuries due to the decisions of coal operators to violate safety regulations. The employers in this industry are obligated by law to meet certain standards in order to keep miners as safe as possible, and when they neglect this responsibility the consequences can be catastrophic.

According to the complaint, despite pointing out a safety hazard regarding the height of the mine roof and track conditions to the defendants on several occasions, the plaintiff says the companies never addressed the problem.

On Aug. 3, 2013, the plaintiff was traveling on the back of a transport vehicle in the mine, without a hard hat, when his head hit the roof protrusion that he and other employees had noted to the defendants. The complaint also states that the employees that operated the man-trip did so at unsafe speeds and that the plaintiff did not have time to react to avoid the hazard.

The resulting injuries were severe, the suit claims, including traumatic brain injury, impaired mobility and activities of daily living, permanent scarring and physical impairment. Both defendants have suffered lost wages and benefits, future earning capacity, future medical expenses and past medical expenses totaling nearly $1 million.

Edward Ellis Jr. and Tina Ellis filed the suit Aug. 3 in Wyoming Circuit Court against Pinnacle Mining Co., Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., Cliffs North American Coal Inc., Cliffs Logan County Coal LLC, Cliffs West Virginia Coal Inc. and Cliffs Mining Services Company.

Related Articles:

Coal Mine Roof Collapse Results in Two Deaths in Boone County, WV

New Regulations Mandate Proximity Sensors for Continuous Mining Machines to Prevent Crushing Injuries and Death

West Virginia Man Accused of Falsifying Safety Mine Records

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed After Mining Fatality

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 that 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 click here to visit our website to initiate a chat 24/7:  WV Coal Mine Lawyers


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.



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 (especially used heavy equipment for sale), 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 as well as for the drinking and driving accident claim management, 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.

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.

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 dumpsite 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 the 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:

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 an 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 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: 304-594-1800 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.

Source: The State Journal, July 10, 2013, Pam Kasey

OSHA Finds Management Failure led to Death at Blacksville No. 2 Mine

coal miner died, hat and glovesApril 11, 2013 update:  William E. Mock, 61, died in September at the Blacksville No. 2 coal mine in Monongalia County near Morgantown, WV.  Federal inspectors find death was in part due to a failure of management to ensure the safety of its employees.

Mock, a general inside laborer, was fatally injured when an 11-foot by 5-foot piece of mine roof fell onto him on Sept. 13, 2012. Mock and another employee, Doug Ice Jr., were removing a piece of the permanent roof supports when the accident occurred. The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s fatal accident report concluded that failure to install additional support before the primary support was removed caused the accident.

The roof fell with just 30 minutes remaining in Mock’s shift.

“The plank was cut approximately half-way when they determined it was taking the weight from the mine roof. Mock stopped cutting the board,” the report states. “A portion of a roof bolt supporting the board was exposed due to the sloughing of roof material. Mock and Ice decided to cut the roof bolt with a track bonder. To avoid being exposed to a flash from the bonder, Ice turned his back. When the bolt was burned through, there was a loud ‘pop,’ causing Ice to duck. When Ice turned back around, he saw Mock covered with a rock from the lower chest down.”

Ice attempted to remove the rock but was unable to do so, according to the report.

“When assistance arrived at the accident site, Mock was checked for vital signs, but none were detected,” the report states. ” … The Mon County EMS Service transported Mock to the Waynesburg Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.”

CONSOL could not provide proof to MSHA that either Mock or Ice had received task training for removal of permanent roof support.

MSHA’s report says management failed to assure that persons removing the roof were located in a safe position, failed to examine the roof conditions prior to removal and failed to provide task training instructing the miners in appropriate procedures for removing the roof supports.

“Management personnel were not present when the accident occurred,” the report states. “No member of mine management was with Mock and Ice during the entire shift, including the removal of the load-bearing support.”

In its root cause analysis of the accident, MSHA determined that the “most basic causes of the accident” would have been correctable through “reasonable management controls.” The report says CONSOL has since taken corrective actions to ensure policies and safety instructions related to the causes of the incident.

CONSOL received eight citations in relation to the investigation of the fatality.

Source:, by Taylor Kuykendall, April 11, 2013.

Original Post:  A CONSOL Miner, William Edward Mock died on Thursday, September 13, 2012 after being seriously injured when he was struck by a large rock during a workplace accident along the track haulage at the Blacksville No. 2 mine.  According to the Dominion Post, the accident is under investigation and CONSOL is looking into what happened.

While the mine has a portal in West Virginia west of Blacksville, the bulk of the coal being mined is in Pennsylvania. The site of the accident will determine which state mine safety agency is involved.

CONSOL said it will provide updates on the accident as information becomes available and will work closely with federal and state mining officials to determine the cause of the incident.

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

If your loved one has been injured or killed while working in or near a coal mine in West Virginia, you are entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits and other recoveries from the coal company for “deliberate intention” violations set forth in West Virginia law, Section 23-4-2. Moreover, you may also be entitled to seek a recovery for money damages from any third parties – like equipment manufacturers and subcontractors – that contributed to or caused your injuries.

Free Consultation · Contingency Fees · Don’t Lose Your Workers’ Comp Benefits

The Robinette Legal Group is recognized as one of the region’s most successful coal mining injury litigation firms. Our attorneys understand the regulations and we know how to look beneath the coal dust to find the true cause of the accident and the full extent of your injuries and financial damages that result. We work independently as your attorney or with your workers’ compensation lawyer to seek full and fair compensation from the insurance company that is liable for damages.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers. Free books and downloads for WV accident victims — Call us today: 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.


Does it Matter if I Wait to Contact a Lawyer?

gavel and clockDoes it really matter if I wait to contact a lawyer about my wrongful death claim?

If you think that waiting a few months to speak with a lawyer won’t impact your wrongful death claim, think again.  Every day that you wait to seek legal counsel equates to a loss of opportunity to obtain full compensation for your injuries. In reality, it is the first 30 days following the fatal injuries to your deceased family member that are most critical to your case.

It is within this relatively short time period that initial inspections should be completed and necessary evidence and testimony secured. It is always best if a lawyer is consulted within the first few days following the tragic event because certain evidence won’t last even 30 days. If you wait too long to develop your wrongful death claim, it will make the job of even a good lawyer more difficult to obtain a full recovery for the estate.

Waiting even a few weeks to get legal advice about your case may be just enough time for evidence to be lost or destroyed or an important witness to disappear.  Loss of vital evidence and witness testimony will cause permanent shortcomings in your wrongful death case.    Without evidence, you have no way of proving liability against the responsible parties who caused the death of your family member.

You don’t know if or when your evidence will disappear or be destroyed. An important witness to your case will not likely call you up and give you their testimony and forwarding address before they skip town. When they skip town, there goes your evidence, too. And that documentary evidence — the tangible information like records and parts — you need to prove your case can disappear. Nobody is going to alert you to that either.

Also, please keep in mind that West Virginia allows only two years to file suit after the occurrence.  After this time, your claim will be forever barred.

It doesn’t matter if your evidence is accidentally lost or intentionally destroyed; both have the same adverse impact on your fatal injury claim.  All these things happen without you knowing it — these are some of the legal ramifications of waiting too long to get legal counsel.  You don’t have to end up being further harmed — you can exercise your right to consult with your own lawyer about your injury claim today.

For further information about moving forward after a tragic, unexpected death, we offer a free resource for you to help guide you through the process of moving forward with your lives.  Click this link to gain the insight you need today:  Beside Still Waters:  West Virginia Fatal Injury Guide.Beside_Still_Waters_-_Covers_3D

No words or amount of remuneration could ever compensate all that you have lost when your loved one is taken from you.  As you move forward with your life, those who are responsible must be held accountable to give you a sense of justice and closure.  Jeff Robinette and his staff are available to answer your questions.  Every call is handled with compassion, and every case is handled with dignity and professionalism.

Call The Robinette Legal Group, PLLC today:  304-594-1800.

A Jail Cell at the End of the Tunnel?

coal minerThe Investigation into Upper Big Branch Sends Powerful Message to Mine Industry

It’s beginning to look like the canaries have come home to roost. Last week, the federal investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster continued to take another step up the corporate ladder of the former Massey Energy Co. This time, the former president of the subsidiary that operated that mine pleaded guilty to two federal mine safety charges. David Hughart admitted to illegally warning miners and their bosses about surprise federal inspections for more than a decade, up until only weeks before the fatal blast that claimed the lives of 29 miners. He also said that he and other corporate officials, superintendents and foremen, conspired to violate mine health and safety laws.  Hughart faces up to six years and a $350,000 fine when he’s sentenced June 25.

Furthermore, he squarely pointed the finger at Massey’s former chief executive officer, Don Blankenship, for ordering this practice. Since this investigation was launched in the months following the April 2010 tragedy it has netted three convictions: The mine’s former security chief, its superintendent; and now its president. And in the two former cases, the punishments handed down have been some of the stiffest ever in mine safety cases, including long jail terms. Prosecutors also negotiated a $210 million agreement with the company that bought Massey, Alpha Resources. That spares the company from criminal prosecution but leaves individuals subject to it.

Though this investigation is already one for the records in West Virginia, if it goes after a former mining CEO, it will be a rare day, indeed. But even if it does, we are not going to rejoice. Because at the end of the day, nothing is going to bring back those 29 coal miners, most of whom died from the concussion — some more than a mile away — of a massive explosion underground.

However, it’s clear that this investigation’s real achievement will be the very powerful message it has sent, and not only to the mining industry. If you still need to read between the lines, we’ll spell it out for you: If you conspire to knowingly violate safety and health laws in any workplace and risk the lives of employees, you might be going to jail. There are probably few, if any workplaces, despite best practices and efforts, that are not subject to citations for some violation or another. However, when anyone not only condones and allows unsafe practices but actually makes them company policy, they should face criminal charges. As a rule, we trust almost all mine operators do strive to ensure their employees’ health and safety — consequences or no consequences. But for those who would grossly violate mine safety and health laws, a steel cage may await them.

The families of coal mine disaster victims and survivors have legal rights in West Virginia, but you don’t have to fight for them alone.  Speak to an experienced Coal Mine Explosion Lawyer or Wrongful Death attorney today who can help you understand and protect your rights — Call 304-594-1800 today.  We would be glad to answer your questions.

Source:  Editorial from The Dominion Post, Morgantown, WV: 3/06/2013

Injured in WV? Get the Facts.

Free Books for WV Accident Victims:

Beside Still WatersRighting the WrongsCollision Care

Click on the book image for immediate download, or if you are a WV injury victim, call 1-304-594-1800 or email our office today to have a softcover book sent to your home at no cost or obligation to you.

Collision Care: A Guide for West Virginia Accident Victims will give you the basic facts that you must know in order to make the best decisions for your present and future circumstances and to help you achieve the best result possible regarding your injury claim. (87 pages)

Righting the Wrong: West Virginia Serious Injury Guide provides serious injury victims and their families essential information about the insurance claims process to enable them to maximize their efforts to rebuild their lives. (161 pages)

Beside Still Waters: West Virginia Fatal Injury Guide provides surviving family members the information they need in order to pick up the pieces of their lives to enable them to rebuild a financial future for themselves and their children. (123 pages)

Click on a book cover image for a free immediate download, or if you are an injury victim or family member, call our office today to have a softcover copy sent to your home. Due to limited availability, there is a limit of one book per family.

All of these books can also be purchased on and Barnes and Noble for $16.95 each, plus shipping, but if you act now, Jeff will send it to you at No Cost or obligation.

Some of the useful information you will find in these books:

  • What Are My Legal Rights?
  • What Is Legal Liability?
  • What Is Comparative Fault? What happens if we were both at fault?
  • How Do I Prove My Claim? What documentation must I provide?
  • For What Damages May I Receive Compensation?
  • Do I Really Need A Lawyer? How to choose the right lawyer for your case.
  • Can I Afford A Lawyer?
  • Financial Motivation Of The Insurance Company – to minimize their pay-outs and maximize their own profit.
  • What is wrongful death?
  • Statements and Authorizations – Think twice and get advice before you sign that release!
  • Social Media Traps and insurance company surveillance of your activities.
  • Spoliation of Evidence, vehicle salvage issues.
  • And much, much more!

Bonus Information: The Anatomy of a Real-life Injury Case and 10 Ways to Ruin Your Case

Our Mission
Morgantown lawyer and principal attorney, Jeff Robinette, shares what he believes is the mission of the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC. The primary objective of a personal injury law firm is to help the average person who has been the victim of negligence against the powerful resources of the insurance industry.

About the Author:

Jeffery L RobinetteJeffery Robinette is a personal injury lawyer with decades of insurance litigation and trial experience in personal injury and wrongful death claims. Prior to representing injured individuals exclusively, Mr. Robinette was a partner in a major West Virginia law firm where he focused his legal practice on defending serious personal injury and wrongful death claims and lawsuits stemming from auto and truck collisions. He has also represented the nation’s largest and most powerful insurance companies at all levels of litigation including jury trials and appeals in state and federal courts in West Virginia.

Mr. Robinette taught insurance companies and their adjusters how to follow insurance laws and regulations, including how to adjust insurance claims in good faith. He was a frequent speaker at insurance conferences on West Virginia insurance law.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers.  Call us today: 304-594-1800.  We are glad to answer your questions.


Consol Miner Markel Koon Found

The long wait is finally over for the family of Markel Koon of Shinnston. 

The CONSOL bulldozer operator who slid into a failed slurry impoundment in Harrison County was recovered Friday, two weeks after an accident caused the employee’s death, CONSOL officials said.

Company officials said dive and rescue teams successfully completed a pipe and dive recovery effort at about 4:40 p.m. Friday. The name of the miner is Markel Koon, 58, of Shinnston. He worked for CONSOL for 37 years and 9 months, company officials said.  May God bless this family as they finally lay their loved one to rest. (Source:  WAJR news)

Who was Mark Koon?

Markel Koon was a union coal miner, having begun his career at Consolidation Coal Co. on Feb. 11, 1975. He was a former captain of the mine rescue team. He worked on multiple recovery and rescue efforts, including the Sago Mine Disaster.

He was a 1972 graduate of Shinnston High School. Mark enjoyed bear hunting, deer hunting and fishing, and spending time with his dogs. Mark loved his family, friends, fellow coal miners, and dogs.   It is clear that he was loved by his large extended family.

West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners. If a little more time and money was spent on the front end on safety for these hard-working employees, the companies could have avoided these tragic losses of irreplaceable lives and extremely expensive recovery efforts. When will they learn?

Recovery Progress Updates:

12/13/2012 p.m. update:  New tools have been brought in and work to extract the bulldozer operator has resumed.

Crews have been working to cut the bulldozer cab, which started at 1:55 p.m., according to MSHA Spokesperson Amy Louvre. The first dive was at 9:25 a.m. and divers encountered heavy frost and ice Thursday morning.

Crews had to reposition the pipe several times and they plan to continue working through Thursday evening.

12/13/12 update:  Divers are preparing to resume efforts today in the recovery of a Robinson Run Mine employee submerged inside a bulldozer in the Nolan Run slurry impoundment. Divers were on-site Wednesday, working to prepare the site after operations were suspended Tuesday night when divers experienced mechanical issues, according to Lynn Seay, spokeswoman for CONSOL Energy.

The professional divers used torches to cut a small hole in the cab of the dozer and were able to positively identify that the victim was inside on Monday, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.  “But they were unable to maintain an arc, and the water and slurry significantly inhibited the cutting process” as the divers worked to enlarge the opening Tuesday, said MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere.  “(They) plan to acquire different tools in order to attempt to cut through the top of the cab and extract the victim.”

“They believe it could take up to two days to cut through the top of the cab.  Typically, recovery operations have been taking place from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Source:  The Exponent Telegram: “Divers Bring in New Tools to Resume Recovery Effort,” Darlene Taylor-Morgan, 12/13/12.

12/12/2012 p.m. update: Dive teams trying to remove a bulldozer driver from a West Virginia coal slurry pond have been forced to suspend operations.  The slurry and water were hindering the attempts to cut a larger hole through the bulldozer cab, so it may take up to two more days to cut through to recover the miner. They suspended operations Tuesday night and are now looking for more effective tools.  (The Clarksburg Exponent Telegram)

12/11/2012 p.m. update:   Although diving efforts continued Tuesday, the body of a bulldozer operator had not been recovered as of late afternoon, according to company and federal officials.  CONSOL Energy has been cited by federal regulators for failing to maintain part of the slurry impoundment where a worker died November 30th.  CONSOL was cited December 3rd for failing to maintain a ditch leading to the Nolan Run impoundment.

Monday update:  CONSOL Energy has confirmed that divers have found the body of a missing bulldozer operator who was sucked into a slurry impoundment 10 days ago. The company says the man is located inside the cab of the dozer. Efforts to recover his body are ongoing – there is no time frame for when those efforts will be completed.  Spokeswoman Lynn Seay wouldn’t predict Monday how long it may take to remove him, calling it a complex effort that requires both time and precision.

Dive and rescue teams completed a series of pipe dives throughout the weekend that helped to determine the position and location of the bulldozer in the Robinson Run Preparation Plant impoundment. The teams were able to reposition the pipe and adjust the water jets Sunday evening in preparation for a Monday morning dive. Monday morning, crews cut an opening in the canopy of the bulldozers and divers were able to confirm that the employee is inside.

Monday a.m. update:  Divers located the cab of a bulldozer in a slurry pond at the Robinson Run preparation plant Sunday, but they have yet to determine if the operator is inside.

Several divers from River Services Company began diving Saturday and “the short-term pipe dive recovery effort (was) still underway” Sunday, according to an email from Lynn Seay, spokeswoman for CONSOL.

Sunday update:  CONSOL Energy and federal mine regulators were mum Saturday about a scheduled diving expedition to find the body of a bulldozer operator in a coal slurry impoundment at Robinson Run Mine.

Spokeswomen for CONSOL and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Friday that divers from River Services Co. would start searching the area Saturday.  But CONSOL’s Lynn Seay could not confirm Saturday if the work had actually started.  “I know they were scheduled to start the dive today,” Seay said. “I don’t know if that happened.” When asked if she might have more information later, Seay said she didn’t “anticipate anything today.”  Amy Louviere, with MSHA, said in an email she also had nothing to report.

However, a Harrison County 911 supervisor said Saturday night that some form of recovery work did take place at the site and would resume today.  (Source:  The Exponent Telegram, Jim Davis)

Recovery Dive Planned for 10:00 a.m Saturday

Saturday update:  Divers are expected to enter a coal slurry pond in Marion County at about 10 a.m. today as part of a plan to locate a bulldozer driver buried last week when part of the embankment collapsed at the dam serving the Robinson Run mine.  The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said a dog brought to the site Thursday night indicated the team is working in the right spot.

Engineers and Geologists Say Slurry Pond Failure Tragedy Could Have Been Prevented

Friday update:  The investigation into a West Virginia slurry pond collapse that swallowed a bulldozer operator is in the early stages, but people familiar with the construction process said it’s likely that someone pushed an expansion project too far, too fast.  Media outlets said the workers were pushing coarse mine refuse toward the upstream side of the dam to expand its foundation and increase its height.

Dennis Boyle of the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in Charleston compared it to pushing material into a swimming pool. Move too far too fast, he said, and the material becomes saturated.  Geologists said there’s a narrow range of stability in the process, and Jim Pierce, a dam safety engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said it appears the stability of either the embankment or the pond’s underlying foundation was lost.

A critic of the coal industry said regulators are ignoring stricter construction standards that could prevent more failures at hundreds of similar dam-like structures around the country. For at least a decade, state and federal regulators have allowed coal companies to build or expand the massive ponds of gray liquid and silt atop loose and wet coal waste, said Jack Spadaro, an engineering consultant and former director of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy.

There are more coal slurry impoundments in WV than in any other state (114) out of a total of 596 in 21 states.  Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said impoundment failures are rare. “These are the most scrutinized and most engineered earthen structures in the world, certainly in this country,” he said. “They’re monitored routinely. They have lots of eyes looking at them. … Anytime there’s a heavy rainfall, the agencies are out there looking at them.”

MSHA Issues Preliminary Accident Report

Thursday update:  MSHA has issued a preliminary report stating some of the facts known so far.  The preliminary accident report describes the series of events that happened on Friday, Nov. 30 at Robinson Run Mine Number 95.   A section of the dam, approximately 650 feet long, 20 to 25 feet above the water’s surface, and 70 feet back from the water’s edge, broke and slid into the impoundment.

MSHA said four miners were working in the area where the failure happened and three of the miners and their equipment were swept into the impoundment. Two of the miners were standing near the face of the dam, looking over and recognized a failure was about to occur. They began to run but were pulled into the water.  One of the miners swam to shore and the other was located and rescued by Nutter Fort Fire and Rescue.  The bulldozer operator working near the face was inside his equipment when it slid into the impoundment and remains unaccounted for.  The two rescued miners were taken to the hospital and treated and released.  Another bulldozer operator had been working in the area at the time, but he was far enough back so that he was not pulled into the slurry by the failure.

Longwall operations resumed on Wednesday, but that coal was being stockpiled—not washed — until the inlet side of the slurry impoundment (where slurry is piped in when washing takes place) can be isolated from the recovery area. In order to do that, a boom curtain is being installed across the impoundment. A chemical also will be added to the incoming slurry to help settle sediment quickly, and the pond levels will be monitored hourly.

 Specialized Louisiana Dive Team Preparing for a Pipe Dive

Wednesday p.m. update:  A group of specially trained divers from Louisiana plan to enter the coal slurry impoundment this weekend.  They are studying a bulldozer of the same model as the missing one and will attempt a pipe dive on Saturday.  Two twenty-foot pipes will be welded together and water jets attached to the bottom of the pipe will be used to flush out the solid material and clear a path for the divers to enter.  The pipe will be lowered from the floating barge to the top of the bulldozer.  Divers would enter the pipe through an access door, with an air supply and communications to operations based on barges on the surface, while water jets installed at the bottom of the pipe push away silt.

The divers will have just about zero visibility once they enter the slurry.  Fourteen barges are being constructed on the slurry pond to serve as a platform for the recovery efforts.    Once complete, the bulldozer will be located by touch of the divers, who will then enter the cab to try and recover the employee, but they don’t know the orientation of the bulldozer on the pond floor.  The bulldozer is 25 to 35 feet below the surface.

According to Consol Energy Vice President of Safety Lou Barletta, if this effort does not work, crews will construct a dam-like area to separate the dozer from the slurry.  They will construct a chauffeur dam inside the impoundment, Barletta said. The dam consists of sheet piling that will form a perimeter around the machine. Then crews would work on removing some items from the area so they can get to the bulldozer.  “We are hopeful we will find our colleague in the cab of the bulldozer,” Barletta said. “But, we cannot yet determine if our employee is in the cab of the dozer and will not know that until we proceed with the short term [plan].”

Understandably, the family of the bulldozer operator has requested that his name not be released at this time until all family members have been notified.

Search Efforts Continue for Missing Mine Worker in Harrison County

Wednesday a.m. update:  Search efforts continue for a missing mine worker in Harrison County. MSHA says several small boats will be used to help move barges into place to search for the man who disappeared into a slurry pond last Friday. They’ll be using 50-foot pipes to anchor the recovery site, which will include several barge platforms. The recovery effort itself is dangerous for the workers. MSHA says anyone inside the buffer zone, on the barges, or on the platforms will have to have a spotter and a life jacket. Consol Energy is expected to brief media this afternoon.

Tuesday update:  The official investigation into what happened at Robinson Run will begin today. MSHA’s mobile command vehicle has arrived on-site and will serve as a headquarters in the coming days as crews continue to search for a mine worker that fell into a sludge pit last Friday. Dredging at the sludge pond began yesterday. Operations are starting to resume at the mine. The company says returning to work will not impact the ongoing search efforts.

Monday update:  Search and recovery teams will continue to look for a missing mine worker in Harrison County tomorrow.  Dive crews have been used to try and locate the man, missing since Friday when a slurry embankment failed at the Robinson Run preparation plant. The man was operating a bulldozer when the embankment collapsed.  It’s believed the dozer was swallowed up and sank as deep as 35 feet below the surface. Search teams hope to pinpoint the dozer’s location and search around it.  The slurry is much thicker than anyone had imagined.

Sunday update:  “Diving isn’t likely going to happen today,” said federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Amy Louviere in a 10:45 a.m. Sunday update, following a Saturday night update saying diving would begin this morning. “Other options are being considered.”

Probing with pipes was to be conducted this morning prior to diving, Louviere said earlier.  Consol has taken platform barges into work from on the water, she added, and dredges are being assembled for use, although the assembly time will be lengthy.  An additional slurry pump is being installed to handle heavier material, such as sediment.

Louviere confirmed that the miner was in the bulldozer when the impoundment collapsed, so the hope is that when the bulldozer has been located — and they believe they have located it — they will find the miner.

Personnel were using metal rods to better locate the bulldozer and the machine may not be as deep as originally thought. Crews were working to confirm the bulldozer is 25 to 35 feet below the surface.  There were plans to use sheet pilings to surround and isolate the bulldozer, which would allow divers to enter the area to search for the missing operator

 One Miner Missing and Two Injured in Robinson Run Preparation Plant Slurry Impoundment Failure

Original story:  One person is missing and two were injured Friday following an embankment failure on top of Robinson Run Preparation Plant slurry impoundment.   Coal slurry impoundments are used to contain both solid refuse and the wastewater byproduct known as slurry created when preparations plants wash raw coal to help it burn efficiently before it is shipped to customers.  The CONSOL Energy mine is at the border of Harrison and Marion counties.

According to statements from CONSOL and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA): At about 12:15 p.m., a failure occurred when one bulldozer operator and two engineers were on top of the impoundment.

CONSOL confirmed that a refuse embankment gave way, causing a bulldozer and two pickup trucks to slide into a slurry pond.
According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the part that collapsed was a pad under construction within the pool area of the impoundment. The pad is more than 1,000 feet from the main embankment. The area that failed is roughly 200 yards long and 200 feet wide.

An ambulance took one engineer to Fairmont General Hospital, where he was treated and released. The other engineer was taken by HealthNet helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital and was in stable condition, according to CONSOL.

Crews were on-site searching for the third man. The embankment remains unstable, creating difficult rescue conditions, according to the energy company. The rescue effort included dive teams and a boat with sonar. Crews were expected to search throughout the night.

CONSOL also worked on lowering the pond’s water level to aid search efforts. The pond had a standing depth of 12 feet. Response teams are draining the pond at 1,600 gallons per minute, according to the DEP. The water from the impoundment is being pumped into a freshwater pond where it will be filtered and treated before being released. The DEP is monitoring the discharge.  As a result of the incident, the company canceled the 4 p.m.-midnight shift.

MSHA staff, state officials, company representatives and United Mine Workers of America personnel were at the site.
According to CONSOL spokeswoman Lynn Seay, there have been no leaks from the pond as a result of the incident, but material continuing to fall from the embankment into the pond hampered rescue efforts.

According to DEP Spokeswoman Kathy Cosco, engineers in consultation with the MSHA investigator have determined that there is no imminent risk of failure of the impoundment and no evacuations are anticipated.

Steven O’Dell, Alex Energy Employee, Also Killed in Separate Incident on Friday

Also on Friday, Steven O’Dell, an electrician, was killed when he became caught between a scoop and a continuous mining machine around 1:30 a.m. at the Pocahontas Mine A White Buck Portal near Rupert in Greenbrier County, said Leslie Fitzwater of the state Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.  The mine is owned by White Buck Coal Co., a subsidiary of Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. O’Dell was an employee of Alex Energy.

O’Dell is the state’s sixth mining fatality this year.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers.  Free books — Call us today: 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.

Sources:  The Dominion Post, 12/01/2012, Alex Lang;;;,