Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Five killed, one rescued in Harlan County mine accident
HOLMES MILL, Ky. (May 20, 2006) - Five miners were killed in an explosion early today at an underground coal mine operated by Kentucky Darby LLC in Harlan County. A sixth miner was rescued and treated at a hospital.
Governor Ernie Fletcher, who flew to the site, promised a thorough investigation of the accident. He personally expressed condolences to families of the victims and restated his commitment to mine safety.
"This is a tragic loss that is felt by everyone in the Commonwealth," Governor Fletcher said. "Coal mining is hazardous work. Our administration recognizes that and has worked for improved safety in our mines. We value all of our coal mining men and women, and we want to do what we can to ensure that they all go home safely at the end of their shift."
Ten miners have been killed in Kentucky so far in 2006. There were five fatalities - the record low - in both 2004 and 2005. The state recorded 12 mining fatalities in 2000. Since then, the number of state inspections per year has virtually doubled - to 2,191 in 2005, compared with 1,081 in 2000. The administration last month won passage of legislation to enhance mine safety enforcement. The legislation takes effect in July.
The Kentucky Darby No. 1 Mine is at Holmes Mill, near the border with Virginia in northeastern Harlan County. Records at the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing (OMSL) show that the mine has been licensed by Ralph Napier since May 18, 2001.
Five OMSL rescue teams were among responders to the accident, which occurred between 12:40 a.m. and 1 a.m. EDT.
Upon reaching the mine site, Governor Fletcher personally thanked members of the rescue teams and remarked on the bravery of those who brought out the victims. He also telephoned victims’ relatives who could be reached.
Rescuers found the injured miner, Paul Ledford, about 2,000 feet from the mine entrance. He was treated at Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap, Va., and released.
Rescuers found three of the victims between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. The last two victims were located shortly before 9 a.m. Victims were identified as Amon Brock, of Closplint; Jimmy D. Lee, of Wallins Creek; George Petra, of Kenvir; and Paris Thomas Jr. and Roy Middleton, both of Evarts.
OMSL, an agency of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, will investigate the accident.