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Experienced West Virginia CONSOL Energy Coal Miner and Three Others Die During the Government Shutdown

As the slogan goes, coal mining “helps keep the lights on” across the nation and is important to West Virginia’s economy.  For hardworking coal miners, however, mining can also be deadly.  For example, During the recent government shut down, a veteran miner who had worked underground for over four decades was killed in West Virginia.  

Roger King, 62, from Moundsville, WV, became the sixth miner to die in the state this year. He was a dedicated coal miner for the past 44 years and had worked at the McElroy Mine for last 17 years for CONSOL Energy Inc.  Roger was a devoted family man, U.S. Army Veteran and active member of his community.

He was one of three miners to die across the nation in a single weekend. Mr. King’s death on October 4, 2013, was followed by another the next day at an underground mine in Illinois, and a third on October 6 at a surface mine in Wyoming.

“Three miners killed on three consecutive days is extremely troubling,” Joe Main, assistant labor secretary for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, said in a prepared statement, the Charleston Gazette reported. He pointed out that the deaths took place over a weekend “when there may be a greater expectation an MSHA inspector would not be present.” He said it was the first time in a decade that three miners had been killed in as many days.

The United Mine Workers union had warned the government furlough would mean fewer MSHA inspectors and compromise the safety of miners. In the event, four miners lost their lives during the Government shutdown. The fourth fatality was in Indiana.

Mr. King was killed after he was hit in the head by a section of a chain at CONSOL’s McElroy Mine in Marshall County.

The Charleston Gazette reported the death of Mr. King was the sixth West Virginia coal-mining death so far in 2013. West Virginia is leading the nation so far this year in coal mining fatalities.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with Mr. King’s family and loved ones during this difficult time,” the company said in a statement.

“Safety remains at the core of everything we do at CONSOL Energy,” the company said in its statement. “It is our priority to prevent events like this one from ever happening, and we continue to strive for a workplace experience of zero accidents.”

Notwithstanding CONSOL’s statement, this is not the first fatal accident at one of its sites. In 2011, a CONSOL Energy ditch digging machine ripped off the leg of Charles McIntire from Ohio, and he died from the accident. His daughter filed a wrongful death claim in Marshall County, WV Circuit Court.

The Charleston Gazette reported McElroy, employs approximately 1,000 workers and produced about 9.4 million tons of coal in 2012, making it the largest coal mine in West Virginia.

In March, 2013, McElroy won a safety award as part of the Mountaineer Guardian Awards program.

However, at the same time, CONSOL President Nicholas DeIuliis gave a speech calling for the industry to do more to improve safety.

CONSOL was investigating two deaths at its sites in Marion County, West Virginia in the previous three months at the time of the speech – one at the Loveridge mine in February, and the other at a slurry impoundment plant at its Robinson Run operation in late 2012.

Mining remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. ABC News reported about 50 to 60 miners die underground every year. The job is so hazardous that miners wear emergency breathing devices at all times to help give them enough time to escape a disaster.

However, the coal mining industry has seen its fair share of disasters, particularly in West Virginia.

In 2006, 12 miners died deep inside the Sago coal mine in West Virginia following an explosion. Important safeguard failed in the tragedy. A miner who survived later recalled how four of the emergency air packs, which are called “rescuers,” failed to work.

In the wake of the Sago disaster, new safety measures were ordered in the industry. Mining companies were required to build safety chambers where miners could take refuge, with sufficient air, food, and water for four days.

Tragically, disaster struck again in 2010 at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia when an explosion in the mine led to the deaths of 29 miners. It was the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years and led to another flood of lawsuits.

Recently, United Mine Workers spokesman Phil Smith, told CNN mining has become safer in recent years, but much of the reduction in fatal accidents is due to the fact production has shifted above ground to strip and mountain-top-removal mining.

He said mining for coal is inherently more dangerous than metal mining. “Metals aren’t explosive, they don’t liberate methane when you mine them and the dust doesn’t catch fire,” he said.

Additionally, tunnels can collapse and the heavy machinery used in coal mining can malfunction or break leading to serious injury or death.

Free consultation with a West Virginia Coal Mining Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a coal mining accident or any other West Virginia work accident lawyers in West Virginia, we invite you to call one of our coal mining accident attorneys for a free consultation.  Or If your loved one has been killed in a coal mining or other workplace accident, we are very sorry for your loss.  You may have a wrongful death claim and invite you to call one of our wrongful death lawyers for a free consultation.  West Virginia has what is called a wrongful death statute that protects families and dependents who have lost a loved one due to the carelessness or recklessness of another.

West Law Firm is located in Charleston, West Virginia and our toll free number is 1-877-943-9378.  We serve all of West Virginia and clients throughout the country who were injured in West Virginia.  

This article is dedicated to Roger King and his family, and we thank Roger for his service as a coal miner and U.S. Army Veteran.

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