October 30, 2007 The Pump Handle 4Comment

Working a weekend shift has been particularly dangerous for West Virginia coal miners this year.  All seven coal-mining related fatalities in the State have occurred on weekend shifts.  The latest victim was Mr. Charles Jason Keeney, 34, who died on Sunday while working underground at the  Long Branch Energy’s Mine No. 23 in Boone County, WV.  The miner was killed by a piece of falling coal or rock, according to the WV Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training (WVMHST)

The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward writes that the day after this last fatality, Mr. Ron Wooten, the director of WVMHS&T, sent a memo all coal mine drawing attention to the unusual trend in weekend fatalities.

 Wooten wrote:

“It is imperative that when weekend work is scheduled (production or non-production), proper supervisory and safety staffing is provided.  Our inspectors cannot be present in all mines all the time, but industry industry personnel are.  I am asking that special attention be directed toward the weekend work environment in an effort to assure that this trend is reversed.”

Ken Ward also reports that the Long Branch Energy firm operates four coal mines in Boone County, including a mine where UMWA-member, Mr. Edmund Vance, 46, was killed last year. 

“MSHA investigators concluded that the mine operator had allowed loose material to accumulate and did not set wall and roof support timbers properly.  Investigators reported that miners were injured in 11 similiar accidents over a four-year period.”

[MSHA’s report notes]: ‘The mine had operated with unusually hazardous rib conditions for a significant period of time.  The mine operator exhibited a high degree of negligence by allowing miners to be exposed to the hazardous rib conditions over an extended period of time.”  

For that fatality, MSHA assessed a monetary penalty of $100,000.  Long Branch Energy appealed the fines and the case has not yet been resolved.

Long Branch Energy’s No. 23 mine, where the coal miner died on Sunday, is a mid-size coal mine. It produced about 326,000 short tons of coal in 2006 (compared, for example, to CONSOL’s Enlow Fork (PA), McElroy (WV) and Bailey (PA) mines which each produced 10 million short tons last year–the highest producing underground coal mines.)  Both MSHA and WV will conduct investigations of the incident which took Mr. Kenney’s life.

4 thoughts on “Weekend Work Deadly for WV Coal Miners

  1. I don’t understand…you would think people would do these things before these accidents/fatalities happen. Coal Mining has been going on since way before my time and you would think safety would get better but its not its getting worse, people are getting high and/or drinking before going underground and good people like my brother(Charles Jason Keeney) end up getting killed…now I have 2 nieces, 1 nephew and a sister-in-law without a father and without a husband. Its a shame these money hungry officials don’t get together some sort of safety plan until someone gets killed…my brother was a HARD worker, and now hes gone!!! I hope they(coal mining officials) feel good about themselves when their spending that money my brother and so many others died for…I love you bub…your gone but NEVER forgotten!!!

  2. Dear Mr. Light,
    You speak from the heart. Thanks for posting your thoughts on our blog. Whenever I write about workers’ who’ve died on the job, I always try to be respectful, knowing that one of their loved ones who are now left behind might stumble to our blog. I see that MSHA’s accident investigation is not yet complete and I hope that when you receive their report, your family will get some of your questions answered. Of course, the report will probably not address the most critical issue that you raise about the “money hungry officials” and them not having exceptional “safety plans.” Sadly, it all comes down to economics–until it costs more to kill a man, some companies will only do the bare minimum to protect their employees’ health and safety.

    I hope you and/or others in your family will consider posting a tribute to and photo of your brother at the website United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities at:

    It is another way to ensure that he will NEVER be forgotten.

    With sympathy,

  3. Im sorry but my so called “UNCLE” mr. Tim light jr. Does not speak from the heart he speaks from his pocket. The only thing he has been asking for since my father died is the money from the accident to fix his “new” vehicale. Im not a spoiled brat who wont give money to anyone. But These people on my fathers family. They dont care about us they havent cared anything for us. I am Charles jason keeneys oldest child , im 15 and i have been there when everything was going on. And no im not one of those teenagers that always think they know what they are talking about i have facts too back up myself. When my mother was prego. with me and my father needed somewhere to stay after he turned 18 his own mother made him pay rent. which is a bit screwed up if you ask me. They dont even believe that we are my fathers childern. So to reasure you celeste, he will never be forgotten, but just because he is gone we cant dread and morn on it every day we have to continue our lifes. My life has gotten better since hes died because its made me stronger when he died i had ot be there for everyone, I didnt cry or morn because it would show my brother and sister weakness now they are stronger because of that. and yes my mother is upset sometimes but we are all very happy.

  4. Cheyenne,
    I appreciate that you took the time to write to me. You do indeed sound very strong and that you have found a way to live happily after your father’s death. You sure don’t sound like a spoiled brat to me. You sound very mature and knowledgeable of the ways of the world.

    If you ever want to talk to anybody who has lost their own dad from a workplace accident, the group USMWF http://www.usmwf.org/
    would be happy to hear from you and help you out. (You can also post a photo of your dad on that website, too, if you wish.

    All the best to you,


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