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Oakwood Red Ash Coal Corporation
Mine No. 3 Roof Fall Accident

Oakwood, Buchanan County, Virginia
May 17, 1967
No. Killed - 3

USBM Final Investigation Report  (468 Kb)  PDF Format

A multiple fatal roof-fall accident occurred at about 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 17, 1967 in No. 9 entry pillar place of the 3 south mains section of the No. 3 Mine, Oakwood Red Ash Coal Corporation. The accident resulted in the deaths of 3 employees and serious injury to a fourth.

Killed instantly were Garland Rose, age 44, employed as a motorman, John Honaker, age 39, machineman, and Alvin Hess, age 35, employed as a driller and shot firer. Garland Rose had about 6 years mining experience, 3 years of which was as a motorman in the No. 3 Mine; he leaves dependent his widow and one child. John Honaker had about 15 years mining experience, 5 years as an employee in the No. 3 Mine; he leaves dependent his widow and 4 children. Alvin Hess had about 10 years mining experience, 2 years of which were as a driller and shot firer in the No. 3 Mine; he leaves dependent his widow and 3 children. James Street, age 49, employed as a helper on the mining machine, was hospitalized with a fractured pelvis.

Description of the Accident

The underground face employees entered the mine in a man trip at their usual starting time of 7:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 17, 1967 and, upon arrival at the car-dumping point in the 3 south mains section, were assigned their usual duties by the mine foreman, Charlie Miles.

While Miles remained at the car-dumping point to attend other duties, the employees were transported to the face regions, an additional 600 feet, in rubber-tired mine cars pulled by rubber-tired, battery-powered locomotives Upon arrival in the face regions, the usual cycle of mining operations was begun and followed. At about 9:30 a.m., the mining machine crew, consisting of the operator, John Honaker, and his helper, James Street, trammed the machine to the No. 9 entry pillar on the left or east side of the roadway and, after the driller and shot firer, Alvin Hess, had drilled a row of shot holes across the pillar, proceeded to begin undercutting this pillar along a course paralleling the No. 9 entry.

Hess, at the same time, began preparing the shot holes as the machine continued to undercut the pillar. Also about this time, according to Harry Harrison, an eyewitness, who was in the deck of a locomotive coupled to a mine car inby the pillar being undercut, the second battery locomotive in use returned from the car-dumping point with an empty mine car and parked in the roadway alongside the pillar being undercut. This locomotive was being operated by Garland Rose, who remained in the deck while waiting for the loading machine to finish loading the car to which the other locomotive was coupled.

James Street, the mining machine helper who survived the accident, stated that at about 10:00 a.m. when the machine had cut to within a few feet of the left rib he heard a sudden "ripping" sound and the entire area caved without further warning. Street said that he made no move to escape but "just hunkered down beside the machine". He was, however, knocked down by the falling rock with his head near the cutter bar and his feet extended back toward the machine controls. The cutter chain continued to rotate, but the weight of the rock caused the friction feed to slip and the machine remained motionless.

It was several minutes later, according to Street, before someone cut off the power from the mining machine. The other three men, Honaker, Hess, and Rose, attempted to escape by scurrying inby toward the loading machine but were caught by the falling rock.

James Street, who had survived the accident but was trapped alongside the mining machine near the outby edge of the fall, was freed by fellow workmen a few minutes after the rock had fallen and was brought out of the mine at 11:00 a.m. and transported to a hospital in Richlands, Virginia, where his condition was reported to be satisfactory.

Federal inspectors Ronnie Keaton, Frank Stefkovich, and Harold Wiley entered the mine with the superintendent, Marvin Yost, shortly after 11:00 a.m., and State Mine Inspectors Louis Henegar, Jerald Hileman, and William Baldwin arrived on the scene about 2:30 p.m.

Marvin Yost, superintendent, upon arriving at the scene of the accident with the Federal inspectors, had the mine foreman, Charlie Miles, go to the surface. Miles had stated that at the time the roof-fall occurred he was crawling toward the section from the car-dumping point. It was necessary to break and move a considerable amount of rock before getting in proximity to the bodies of the victims and final recovery was affected by the use of hydraulic lifting jacks and wood blocking.

The body of Rose was recovered about 1:00 p.m., that of Honaker about 3:00 p.m., and the body of Hess about 4:00 p.m. The victims suffered multiple crushing injuries and died instantly.

The fall, which broke into numerous pieces, extended from coal rib to coal rib, was about 59 feet long, 36 feet wide, and ranged in thickness from 0 to 14 inches.

Cause of Accident

Men working under a large expanse of mine roof that was either unsupported or inadequately supported was the direct cause of this accident. The unusual method of pillar extraction, which amounted to "pushing" of pillars away from an active roadway was undoubtedly a contributing factor.


Compliance with the following recommendations may prevent accidents of a similar nature:
  • The company's adopted systematic method of roof support should he followed by all officials and employees and additional timbering should be done where the need is indicated.

  • A method of pillar extraction that will provide a maximum of protection for all employees should be adopted at this mine. Methods such as the "open end" and the "pocket-and-fender" should be considered.

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