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Death of coal mine worker tied to operator’s failures

July 14, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An underground coal mine worker in West Virginia died after an incident in January because the operator of the mine did not have rules in place to prevent such accidents, a federal review has concluded.

The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration tied the death of 38-year-old shuttle car operator Justin Lafferty to the mine operator’s failure to ensure there was safe passage for underground haulers. The mine is run by Aracoma Coal Co. Inc. in southern Logan County.

Lafferty died on Feb. 21 after sustaining injuries in a Jan. 22 crash. He was injured when another shuttle car struck the vehicle he was operating.

“The accident occurred because the mine operator did not have policies or procedures in place to assure safe underground haulage,” the report concluded.

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The accident occurred about 7:40 a.m., when Lafferty’s right hip and leg were struck, according to the investigation. Local paramedics arrived at the mine at 8:13 a.m. and transported him to the Logan Regional Medical Center.

He was discharged with a walking boot because of a fracture to his right fibula. After a few follow-up appointments, Lafferty experienced sudden chest pain at his home in the early morning hours of Feb. 21, the report said. Paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and transported him to the emergency room, where he died.

“The autopsy report noted the immediate cause of death was pulmonary thromboembolism as a direct consequence of the blunt impact injury of the right lower extremity,” the report said.