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Mine Disasters in the United States

Women Killed in Mine Accidents

Kerr-McGee Coal Corporation
Galatia Mine No. 56-1 Fall of Rib Accident

Harrisburg, Saline County, Illinois
March 23, 1997
No. Killed 1

Final Accident Investigation Report  PDF Format

Other Woman Killed in Mine Accidents

Description of Accident

On March 23, 1997, at approximately 7:00 a.m., the "B" crew, twelve-hour shift began their work duties. The crew under the supervision of Robert Huff, Longwall Foreman, traveled to the Galatia North 6th East Longwall Working Section to prepare for the day's activities of operating the longwall. After arriving at the working section, Huff assigned the work tasks for the day. Stephanie Renee Counsil (victim) was assigned the regular job task of longwall stage loader operator, and to assist James R. Henshaw, a classified general inside laborer, in building wooden cribs around the stage loader area. The other workers were assigned regular job duties along the longwall working face. Huff walked and examined along the longwall face to the tailgate area, and then called Counsil to start the stage loader and panline.

At approximately 8:20 a.m., Larry J. Wilson, Preshift Examiner, drove a mantrip into the unit to pick up Bill Hughs, Preshift Examiner, who was walking the 6th East belt conveyor. Wilson stated that he observed Counsil and Henshaw breaking a chunk of coal at the stage loader, and then throwing the coal in the stage loader. At that time, Counsil stated she was hot and wiped her brow. A short time later, Wilson met up with Hughs, left the unit and did not have any further contact until they were told to bring the ambulance to the Galatia North 6th East Longwall Section.

Henshaw, who was assigned to install cribs and work with Counsil, stated that Counsil used her channel lock pliers to help break a steel band on a bundle of crib material in the crosscut. They began building a crib just inby the master controller, in the 6th East Headgate Entry at the crosscut at Survey Station 1475 East. Henshaw stated that while he was retrieving more crib material from the crosscut, Counsil walked out of the crosscut toward the stage loader, but he did not know which way she had turned.

A short time later, Henshaw noticed that the stage loader had stopped and he went to investigate. Upon reaching the stage loader, Henshaw looked toward the face area, noticed nothing wrong and tried to reset the emulsion computer. When the emulsion computer would not reset, Henshaw looked outby along the North side of the master controller and saw Counsil covered by a collapsed coal and rock rib. He immediately climbed on top of the controller and could see only part of the victim's head, hard hat, and left hand. Henshaw was unable to get a response from Counsil, and called for help from the people on the longwall face.

Mike Jeter, Longwall Shield Operator, was the first to arrive and immediately saw the seriousness of the situation. The rest of the crew, consisting of Les Sturgill, Edgar Bledsoe, Alan Harris, Longwall Shearer Operators, Fred Plumlee, Longwall Repairman, and Robert Huff arrived a short time later and began recovery operations. Huff instructed Henshaw to retrieve the stretcher and first aid supplies, and sent Plumlee to call for an ambulance and alert the mine manager and mine control of the serious accident.

The crew continued extrication procedures by breaking the massive rock with sledgehammers and using a come-a-long to pull a portion of the rock away from the victim. Huff stated that he attempted to give mouth to mouth resuscitation, but was unable to reach the victim due to the amount of material on her body and the close proximity of the controller. He tried on several occasions to find a pulse, but could find no signs of life. Huff stated that after the rock was removed from Counsil, she still could not be moved due to being covered from the waist down by more material.

After approximately 30 minutes, Counsil was uncovered, removed and placed on a stretcher. Because of the extent of her injuries, the victim was covered and placed on the unit mantrip for the ride out of the mine. William Penrod, Mine Manager, who had been alerted of the accident, met the mantrip five crosscuts from the accident scene. Penrod, an Emergency Medical Technician, immediately got onto the mantrip and began assessing the extent of Counsil's injuries. Penrod stated that he continued to check for vital signs all the way out of the mine, even stopping the mantrip on two occasions to check for faint signs of life, with none being detected.

After arriving at the surface of the Galatia North Shaft, the Saline County Ambulance Service Advanced Life Support Unit took over care. Mark Elder, Paramedic, and Bill Culkin, Emergency Medical Technician, immediately began assessing the situation. Elder stated that as soon as he saw the type of injury to the victim, he decided it would be best to treat the victim while en route to the hospital. While en route, Paramedic Doris Holzinger met the ambulance at the junction of State Route 34 and Raleigh, Illinois, and care and transportation were resumed. Life support monitors were used and medicines were administered during transportation to the hospital. After arriving at the Harrisburg Hospital, the attending physician, Dr. Alexander, pronounced Counsil dead and then contacted the coroner.

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