Nolo mine operator blamed for death

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A surveyor who was accidentally killed in an Indiana County mine when a coal-laden shuttle car ran him over died as a result of poor communication and "inadequate" policy and procedures, federal investigators concluded.

A Mine Safety and Health Administration report on the Feb. 25 death of Bruce E. Makin, 50, at Nolo Mine in Buffington blames Latrobe-based mine operator Amfire Mining Co. LLC for failing to ensure that the surveyor and his crew were in proper contact with mine workers.

"The operator's policies and procedures were inadequate and failed to ensure the safety of all persons working in the same area," the report says.

Mr. Makin, of Ebensburg, Cambria County, worked for CME Engineering in Latrobe. The report says Amfire's employees and the group from CME were not "fully aware" of what the other was doing.

A 10-foot-wide shuttle car struck Mr. Makin after it passed through a heavy translucent curtain.

The operator, identified in the report as Ronald Wysocki, sounded a warning bell before passing through the curtain. He did not realize he had struck Mr. Makin until finding his body on the way back, according to the report.

"Neither the operator nor the contractor had written procedures or policies in place that would ensure that direct communication was made between the section crew and the survey crew to provide adequate information about work activities of each and coordinate such work activities to ensure the safety of both crews," the report says.

No citations have been issued as a result of the investigation. It is not known if fines will be assessed, although Amy Louviere, spokeswoman for the federal mine safety agency, said fatalities often draw penalties.

Mr. Makin's death was the first of two fatalities this year at the mine. On July 11, William Pardee, 62, of Hastings, Cambria County, died when he was pinned between a machine and the mine wall.

A report has not been issued yet on the investigation into Mr. Pardee's death, but Ms. Louviere said two fatalities at the same mine would usually draw increased scrutiny by the government.

"Generally speaking, when we see repeat violations and areas that draw our attention, we try to work closely with the operator to get things back on track and keep things safe," Ms. Louviere said.

Fines for violations run from $60 to $220,000, she said.

The mine does not have union workers, said Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America.

Neither CME nor its lawyer returned calls.

A total of 27 miners have been killed in the United States this year, five of them in Pennsylvania.


Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.


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