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Miner identified in fatal coal mining accident
RACINE — A Boone County coal miner has been killed in a mining accident, according to mining officials and previously published reports.
Asa Fitzpatrick, 63, of Kermit, was killed on Wednesday, March 13, according to a news release from the West Virginia Department of Commerce.
Fitzpatrick was killed from injuries he received when a piece of the mine fell from the ceiling while he was preparing to install a rib bolt. Fitzpatrick was a roof bolt operator with 40-years of experience. He worked at the Newton Energy, Inc. Peerless Rachel Mine in Racine. The mine is controlled by Patriot Coal Corporation and has a little more than 130 workers.
A rock fell from the roof of the mine and struck him, according to a news release from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The miner, a roof bolter operator on the Unit 1 section of the mine, was brought to the surface and taken to CAMC General Hospital in Charleston, but died as a result of his injuries, it was reported.
The accident happened around 5:45 p.m., Wednesday, March 13, officials said. No other details have been released and the incident remains under investigation.
Delegates Joshua Nelson (R-Boone) and Randy Smith (R-Preston) asked all West Virginians to join in a moment of prayer, silence, and remembrance at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 14, to honor Fitzpatrick.
“It is always heartbreaking to learn about the passing of a fellow coal miner. I am joined by my friend and fellow coal miner Delegate Randy Smith in requesting that all West Virginians observe a moment of prayer or silence at 11 a.m. today [Thursday, March 14] to honor and remember this fallen hero,” said Delegate Nelson. “We cannot begin to understand the pain this miner’s family is feeling. I hope they find comfort in the days ahead. I hope all West Virginians will keep them in their thoughts and prayers. This serves as a reminder that the coal that is mined by our fathers, brothers, and sons does not come without risk and we should do all we can to protect and honor our hard-working coal miners.”
Nelson and Smith joined others on the floor of the West Virginia House of Delegates to participate in a moment of prayer and silence.
This mining death comes just weeks after a mine safety “stand down” was ordered by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. It is the fifth mining death in just over a month in West Virginia.
Tomblin was prompted to issue the order he said after the fourth coal miner death in two weeks in West Virginia in February. That man died in Raleigh County when he was killed by an underground scoop.
The governor’s office has not released a statement regarding this latest mining death.
A closure order was issued to the mine operator. MSHA District 4 personnel responded upon notification and an accident investigation is under way.
According to the MSHA website, this is the first fatality at a mine in West Virginia since the safety stand down, and the fifth West Virginia mine-related death in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported on Thursday, March 14, that CONSOL Energy crews and local fire departments battled a fire in an underground coal mine that straddles the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border.
Smoke began pouring from a shaft at the Blacksville No. 2 mine in Wayne Township, Greene County, Pa., on Tuesday afternoon, March 12, according to the AP report.
More than 120 day-shift workers got out safely, and CONSOL spokeswoman Lynn Seay says none will return to work until the mine is considered safe.
Federal Mine Safety Health Administration officials say more than 250,000 gallons of water had been pumped into the mine through a bore hole drilled on Wednesday, and four more holes were being drilled at a rate of 87 feet per hour. The holes are 1,000 to 1,200 feet deep to reach the mine.
The mine employs more than 500 workers and produces coal for power plants.