MSHA investigators cite Harlan Co. mine for deadly accident

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email
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HOLMES MILL, Ky. (WYMT) - 4-30-14

Federal investigators say a deadly Harlan County mine accident last year could have been prevented if operators made changes to the mining plan.

Last August, 56-year-old Lenny Gilliam died and two other miners were injured when a coal pillar burst in the Huff Creek Mine near Holmes Mill.

The MSHA accident report released in April says months before the fatal accident, mining officials had warning signs the accident could happen but made no changes.

MSHA issued some citations to Lone Mountain Processing for the deadly accident.

Wednesday, state and federal investigators returned to the site of a deadly mine accident in Harlan County to figure out what happened.

State officials say a coal pillar burst in the Huff Creek mine on Tuesday.

Lenny Gilliam, 56, of Appalachia, Virginia died. Two others are injured.

Wednesday, officials with OMSL and MSHA interviewed all of the other miners on site.

"They also went underground continuing to look at the site of the accident to help them determine what may have happened so that they can move forward," said Dick Brown, Spokesperson for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

State officials say of the two injured, Johnny Nantz of Wallins is out of the hospital. Terry Scott of Pennington Gap, Virginia is in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Funeral arrangements for Gilliam are not made yet. Gilliam Funeral Home in Big Stone Gap, Virginia is handling the arrangements.


11pm Update:

Investigators will return to the Harlan County mine where a deadly accident happened today.

State mining officials say the accident inside the Huff Creek mine near Holmes Mill killed 56 year old Lenny Gilliam and injured Terry Scott and Johnny Nantz.

Arch Coal officials say 56 year old Lenny Gilliam has worked for Lone Mountain Processing for 17 years.

Tuesday he went to work in the Huff Creek mine near Holmes Mill but did not make it home.

State investigators say around Noon a coal pillar burst in the underground mine near him and two other miners.

Dick Brown with the Energy and Environment Cabinet said, “Coal in that pillar blew out and fell on the miners as they were operating the continuous mining machine in that area.”

Investigators say the three miners were trapped but later rescued. Officials say Gilliam of Appalachia, Virginia died.

The two other miners, Terry Scott and Johnny Nantz are hurt, but state officials say their injuries do not appear to be life threatening.

Officials with the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing say the investigation to determine happened is just getting started. They say investigators will go back into the mine soon.

Brown went on to say investigators will go, “looking around, investigating what may have taken place. They'll be interviewing other miners who may have been in or near the accident site when it happened, and of course, at some point talking to the two miners who did survive.”

The president of Lone Mountain said they will cooperate with the investigation to determine what caused the accident. The company released a statement today saying their deepest sympathies go out to Lenny's wife, children, extended family, friends and co-workers.

5pm Update:

The deceased miner has been identified as Lenny D. Gilliam, age 56, of Appalachia, Va. The two injured miners are Terry Scott and Johnny Nantz. Their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.

4pm Update:

Officials with the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing confirm to WYMT one of the miners injured in the mine accident on Tuesday has died.

The miners’ identities have not been released and the condition of the two injured miners is unknown.

Preliminary reports indicate the side of a coal pillar burst as the continuous miner machine was operating, causing the miners to be trapped.

The mine, located near Holmes Mill on Black Mountain, is operated by Lone Mountain Processing, a subsidiary of Arch Coal.

This is the second mining-related fatality in Kentucky in 2013. In January, a miner welding a liner to a dozer blade and was struck by the liner when a jack supporting the blade slipped.

Original Story:

We are following a developing story out of Harlan County.

State mining officials tell Mountain News crews are on the scene of a mining accident.

It happened around noon Tuesday afternoon at the Lone Mountain Processing mine near Holmes Mill.

We are told 3 people were injured and were taken to the hospital.

We have a crew on the way and will have the latest as we get it.

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