Alabama coal miner killed in surface explosion

On Tuesday night, an Alabama man earlier this week became the 37th coal miner to die on the job this year in the United States.

Phillip W. Gustafson, 38, died in an explosion at Taft Coal Sales & Associates Inc.’s Choctaw Mine, a surface operation near Parrish, in Walker County, Ala., northwest of Birmingham. Gustafson was a service truck operator with about seven years experience.

According to a preliminary report from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, Gustafson was killed at about 9:45 p.m. while he was fuelling a blast hole drill rig. According to the report:

The operator was in the process of fueling the drill rig when an ignition/explosion erupted into a fire, engulfing him in flames. He was airlifted to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

MSHA records for this mine list one explosives-related accident back in mid-December, described this way:

After loading the holes to be blasted, the blaster went through the final check procedures when one of the loaded holes went off. There were no injuries to anyone and no equipment was damaged .

By the way, as it typical for MSHA, the agency’s Web site lists no details of this death. And it took MSHA 36 hours to release any information about it.

I don’t know why MSHA chief Joe Main doesn’t have his staff simply post its preliminary investigation reports on the Web, so I’ll post this one here for anyone who wants to read it.


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