Search continues for worker in coal slurry pond

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SHINNSTON, W.Va. – Rescue crews continued to search Saturday for a bulldozer operator who plummeted into a West Virginia coal slurry pond when an embankment collapsed.


The bulldozer and two pickup trucks slid into the Nolans Run impoundment of Consol Energy’s Robinson Run mine shortly after noon Friday. Two engineers who tumbled into the water were promptly rescued. They were treated at hospitals and released.


Lynn Seay, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania-based Consol, said the search for the missing worker was suspended at midnight and resumed Saturday. Crews were draining the pond, which was 12 feet deep, and sonar equipment was brought in to help divers and other rescue personnel who were searching for the missing person. Seay said the embankment remained unstable and continued to shift, creating difficult conditions for the search.


The Robinson Run mine was idled while the search was under way, and Seay said a decision on resuming operations would be made on a shift-by-shift basis.


U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials were on site, along with company, state and union officials. It was unclear what caused the collapse, which MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere described as a “massive failure” at the mine’s preparations plant.


Preparations plants wash raw coal to help it burn efficiently before it is shipped to customers. Coal slurry impoundments are used to contain both solid refuse and the wastewater byproduct known as slurry.


The accident occurred on the same day that an electrician, 27-year-old Steven O’Dell of Mount Nebo, was killed when he became caught between a scoop and a continuous mining machine at a White Buck Coal Co. mine in Greenbrier County. The company is a subsidiary of Virginia-based Alpha natural Resources.


O’Dell is the state’s sixth mining fatality this year.


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