PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The nation's first mine death of 2008 was
reported Tuesday in Kentucky.
Federal and state officials say an eastern Kentucky coal truck
driver was killed at Blue Ridge surface mine in Letcher County. The
mine is operated by the Cumberland River Coal Company, a subsidiary
of St. Louis-based Arch Coal.
Roy D. Sturgill, 29, of Isom died around 12:45 a.m. after his truck backed over a dumping point and continued to go down the slope, said Kentucky Natural Resources Commissioner Susan Bush.
Sturgill was employed by Bates Contracting in Whitesburg.
Arch spokeswoman Kim Link said she had no further details.
"We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Sturgill's
family, friends and co-workers," Link said.
Calls to Bates Contracting were met with a busy signal.
Bush said state inspectors in 2007 cited the mine for 24 safety
violations and issued 19 orders banning the use of specific pieces of equipment, mainly vehicles.
It's unclear whether Sturgill was operating a truck belonging to Bates or Cumberland River Coal. However, Bush said that was irrelevant because the state holds mine operators accountable for all incidents at their mines.
"They're responsible for everything on that mine site, whether or not it involves a contractor," she said.
When asked about the citations, Link said she couldn't specifically address the safety issues at the Blue Ridge mine. However, she said inspectors are "in the business of looking for things they can cite. You can always find ways to improve."
Last week, state officials announced that Kentucky, the state with the most coal mines in the nation, recorded only two mining deaths last year - the lowest number in its history.
Nationwide, 33 miners died in 2007 as a result of accidents, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. That
compares to 47 miners who were killed in 2006, 23 killed in 2005 and 28 killed in 2004.
"You never know you're going to have a mine accident, you can't
let you guard down," Bush said. "You have to work safely every day."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)