Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Friday, August 10, 2007

Three dead in Princeton, Indiana mine accident

It appears coal mines, like interstate bridges, aren't safe. But we knew that. I'm sure the families of the guys who go down into these shafts every day... definitely know that.

From CNN:

Three people have died in an accident at a coal mine in Princeton, Indiana, police said Friday.

Contractors -- not miners -- were replacing an airshaft at the face of the mine when the accident occurred, said Gibson County coal mine superintendent Jim Brown.

"At this point we have people trying to retrieve the bodies and we know there was no explosion," said Mike Hurt of the Princeton police.

Hurt said the accident occurred at about 11 a.m. and authorities weren't sure if the cause was an equipment problem or something else.

There aren't many details yet, and of course... accidents do happen. But it's been awhile since we had one here, and the fact that it happened so closely on the heels of the disaster out in Utah is odd.

It appears that the contractors were replacing an air shaft. Indy's Channel 6 News is posting updates:

PRINCETON, Ind. -- Three people were killed Friday at the site of an air shaft under construction at the Gibson County Coal mine in southern Indiana, police said.

Princeton police Sgt. Jay Riley said that crews were working to remove the bodies, and that the accident happened at about 11 a.m. CDT. No one else was trapped or injured, Riley said.

--- snip ---

Detective Mike Hurt said the people died in a "basket" used to transport people up and down a 600 foot air shaft, but could not confirm if they fell.

The Princeton Daily Clarion reported that people doing such construction work have to be licensed miners, and that the three who were killed were believed to be licensed miners working as contractors for Frontier-Kemper Constructors of Evansville.

Bad couple of weeks for 'infrastructure.' At least it appears they were trying to fix whatever problems they were having at this mine. I somehow doubt that will be much comfort to the contractors' families.

I can't even imagine going down into a mine shaft, for any reason, to make my living. Not to mine for coal, not to 'repair' a shaft... the risks of trusting your life, deep underground, to the 'infrastructure' maintained by an energy company... my heart goes out to all who have to do this every day.

I will continue updating this as I learn more... watching local coverage (not very helpful so far.)

UPDATE I (background digging): It appears that the contracting company out of Evansville, Frontier Kemper, is owned by a large German mining corporation.

Frontier-Kemper Constructors, Inc. is owned by Germany's leading mining contractor, Deilmann-Haniel International Mining and Tunneling GmbH, Dortmund, Germany.

So now we have global intrigue... or not.

Ironically, just yesterday the Indiana Department of Labor released a report stating that work-related fatalities are down in Indiana, according to analysis of 2006 figures. Even more ironic was the fact that Commissioner Torres commented on the fact that Indiana fatal injuries due to falls was down, for the first time since 2002:

Press Release

Indianapolis, IN August 9, 2007– Indiana Department of Labor (IDOL) Commissioner Lori A. Torres has released the 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) data for Indiana. In 2006, there were a total of 148 fatal occupational injuries in Indiana—nine less than that reported in 2005 (157). The top industries with fatal events in 2006 in Indiana include transportation and warehousing (34), construction (27), manufacturing (13), and professional and business services (13).

“While any number of workplace fatalities is discouraging, some encouraging trends have been identified,” stated Commissioner Torres. Historically, one of Indiana’s leading causes of workplace fatalities is falls. However, for the first time since 2002, Indiana fatal injuries by falls have been reduced. In 2006, Indiana reported four fewer (19) fatal injuries by falls than were reported in 2005. “Our outreach and compliance efforts are data driven. We critically analyze BLS data to define our worker safety initiatives,” added Torres.

The same press release goes on to say that Indiana mines have been 'fatality free' for the past two years:

The IDOL’s Bureau of Mines continues to lead by example with respect to workplace safety. Indiana’s coal mines have remained fatality-free for two consecutive years. “Indiana mine operators have always had a commitment to miner safety. The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act signed in 2006 placed an increased emphasis on mine safety and made miners more aware of the inherent occupational dangers,” stated Don “Blink” McCorkle, Deputy Commissioner—Indiana Bureau of Mines.

Torres is currently at the scene...

Text of the The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006 (PDF) -- looks like this bill was sponsored by Senator Enzi (R-WY), and co-sponsored by Byrd, Kennedy and Rockefeller.

I am reading the President's comments from the day he signed the bill, and immediately noticed that this bill was passed only a month after 5 miners were killed in a mine explosion in Harlan Co., KY. Also Bush referenced the Sago mine explosion (January 2006.)

Infrastructure... sigh.

UPDATE II - Media sources continuing to mention that there was a machine-related fatality at the mine in 2001, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. A machine operator was pinned between equipment.

The U.S. Department of Labor is now stating that this accident was in fact a fall:

At approximately 10:43 a.m. CDT, three contractor/miners were fatally injured at Gibson County Coal, LLC. The contractor was nearing completion of a shaft sinking project into the mine (approximately 500 feet) when the victims fell from a muck bucket being used in construction down the shaft. Gibson Mine is owned by Alliance Resource Partners LP. The contractors worked for Frontier-Kemper Constructors Inc., of Evansville, Ind. Inspectors from the Mine Safety and Health Administration are en route to the mine to investigate.

Initial statement from Frontier-Kemper Constructors Inc.:

“We are deeply saddened by these accidental deaths,” said Frontier-Kemper Constructors Inc. Vice President Bob Pond Friday afternoon. “Until these investigations are complete and the Mine Safety and Health Administration's report has been issued, we cannot comment on the details of the accident.”

Pond said names of the dead were being withheld pending notification of their families. “On behalf of the company and all it's employees, we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families and co-workers.”

UPDATE III: Indy Channel 6 has changed their headline to:

3 Killed In Fall From Mine Basket

Men Tumbled 500 Feet Into Shaft, Officials Say

The men were on a "sinking bucket" used to lower people and objects down the shaft at the Gibson County Coal mine, according to Frontier-Kemper Constructors Inc., which is building the 550-foot vertical ventilation shaft.

The men fell from the bucket, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Frontier-Kemper worker John Ervin said the bucket holds six to 10 people and is about 6 feet high.

"I don't understand how this could have happened," Ervin said.

--- snip ---

Ervin said typically at the start of a shift the bucket takes about six people down to the work area at the bottom of the shaft.

"There's nothing under it. It does sway when you sway it, but other than that, it's got a thing on it to hold it still and make sure it doesn't spin," he said.

Ervin said he wasn't working when his co-workers died. He said the incident has shaken him.

"It scares me a lot that it could have been me," Ervin said. "I didn't really know them. I said 'hi' to them on the way in and on the way out. That's ... as much as I knew them."

Is this similar to an elevator failure?

UPDATE IV: Um... hmmm. It appears that a spokeswoman for the corporation that owns the mine, Alliance Resource Partners, is already claiming that the accident isn't their problem. You see, even though the accident took place in the mine, it was a 'construction site.'

Debbie King, executive assistant for investor relations at Alliance Resource Partners, said the accident was not connected to the mine.

"It is a construction accident. We can't report on it because it's not our accident," she said.

I guess it will come down to who owned the 'sinking bucket' and who was responsible for keeping it repaired and operational. I suppose if that is the construction company, then the mine is 'technically' off the hook.

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