Two separate accidents at West Virginia coal operations Friday left one worker dead, two injured and a fourth worker missing, company and state mine safety officials said.
Electrician Steven O’Dell, 27, died after 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.
White Buck Coal Co., a subsidiary of Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources owns the mine. O’Dell of Mount Nebo was an employee of Alpha’s Alex Energy subsidiary. It’s the sixth mining fatality in West Virginia this year.
“We are all saddened by the loss of a talented colleague and friend,” Alex Energy President Craig Boggs said.
In north-central West Virginia, emergency officials were draining a coal slurry pond to search for a bulldozer operator who was unaccounted for after an embankment collapsed, sending three into the water.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere said a “massive failure” occurred around 12:15 p.m. Friday at the Nolans Run impoundment of Pennsylvania-based Consol Energy’s Robinson Run mine in Harrison County.
One bulldozer operator and two engineers were on the platform when it collapsed. Workers rescued the engineers who were in non-critical condition.
Governor’s office spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said sonar detected an object in the pond and officials were working on sending in divers. The water is about 12 feet deep.
Consol Energy spokeswoman Lynn Seay said the cause of the failure was unclear.
Plants wash raw coal to help it burn efficiently before it ships to customers. Coal slurry ponds contain the solid refuse and the wastewater byproduct known as slurry.