One Dead, Five Injured in Two Coal Mine Incidents in One Day

23 Mar, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Dahlgren, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) -- A southern Illinois coal mine is under investigation after two accidents on the same day left one miner dead and five others injured, officials said.  

According to the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency a coal mine near Mt. Vernon, Ill., reported two incidents on Saturday, March 18 at the Hamilton County Coal, LLC.  

Around 2 a.m. on Saturday, the mine reported an underground roof collapse. First responders said that an employee who was installing a supplemental roof support at the No. 1 mine was caught under the roof. Officials said co-workers tried to revive the worker while moving him to the surface. He was transported to Hamilton Memorial Hospital in McLeansboro and declared dead shortly after the incident.  

Jay Emery, general manager of operations for the plant, told WSIL-TV the company was investigating the incident.  

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and we ask you to join us in extending support to this miner’s family, friends, and co-workers during this difficult time,” Emery stated.  

Hamilton County Coroner Steve Bowling identified the deceased as Cameron Fourez, 41, of West Frankfort, Ill.  

“We are going to do an autopsy tomorrow,” Bowling said. The autopsy was necessary because the death was workplace-related and may have involved hazardous conditions.  

Later that day, officials said, emergency crews were called to the mine when a fire broke out in the preparation plant. The fire caused significant damage to machinery and parts of the building’s top floors. Five workers suffered from smoke inhalation and were taken to the hospital. Initial findings indicate the fire was caused by a construction workers using a torch in the course of his job.  

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) expressed her condolences to the affected families Sunday.  

“I’m so sorry to hear this news,” Duckworth tweeted. “My condolences and well wishes go to these Illinoisans and their families. My office is following this sad situation.” 

Last year, in Kentucky, a similar accident took the life of a Kentucky coal miner. In March 2022, James Brown, 33, of Lynch, Ky., died when a roof collapsed in the D-29 Darby Fork underground mine near Holmes Mill, in Harlan County. Federal investigators later determined the operator of that mine did not do the required examination to spot and correct hazards, and that the operator didn’t install proper supports for the roof of the mine.  

“The accident was totally preventable,” said Lexington attorney Tony Oppegard, the attorney for Brown’s widow, Darla, in a workers’ compensation claim because of the accident said.  

In that accident, Brown was working with another miner to move a waterline and high-voltage power center inside the mine with another miner. According to a U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration report a 20 feet wide by 52 feet long section of the roof fell, burying Brown. The roof section also hit a mechanized scoop being used by another miner, Paul Robbins. However, Robbins was under a protective metal canopy and not injured. 

The death this week is the second mine death in the U.S. in a month. 

On Feb. 25, a Kentucky man died in a cold mining-related accident in West Virginia.  

William Mapes, 73, of Freeburn, Ky., died while he was working at the Central Appalachian Mining LLC’s Grapevine South Surface Mine near Thacker, W.V. He was working as a contractor and had been a miner for 53 years. 

“Any time we lose a brave coal miner, it’s a tragedy beyond belief,” W.V. Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement. “We should all be eternally grateful to Mr. Mapes for his 53 years as a coal miner, just as we should always be grateful to all coal miners across our state. Cathy and I will keep this man and his loved ones in our prayers and ask all West Virginians to join with us.”

The governor’s office declined to comment on his death further.  

Mapes death was the first reported U.S. coal mining fatality of 2023. There were at least 10 coal mining deaths in 2022, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.  

In West Virginia, four coal miners died in 2022, including two that happened within two weeks of each other.  

Krix Ball, 34, of Hart, died at the Coalburg Tunnel Mine in Kanawha County, on Sept. 2., and William Richards died on Aug. 17 at the Tunnel Ridge Mine in Ohio County after he fell off of a supply car and was pinned between the car and its coupler.  

Mining deaths have fallen as the need for coal has fallen. In 2021, as the industry recovered from the pandemic, 10 miners were killed on the job. In 2020, only five died on the job, the lowest number on record since 1900. 


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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