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Coal Truck Driver Killed By Sniper’s Bullet, Police Say

May 29, 1985

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ A truck driver hauling coal for a non-union mining company that has been a frequent target of violence was killed today by a sniper’s bullet, and a companion driver was wounded, state police said.

Hayes West, 35, of Raccoon, died in the emergency room at the Appalachian Regional Hospital at South Williamson, said Pike County Coroner Brafford ″Boot″ Hall.

A companion driver, Roy Lee Johnson, 28, of Speight, was admitted to the hospital in satisfactory condition after treatment to a wound in his right hand, said nursing supervisor Judy Maynard.

The two men were wounded at about 8 a.m. on U.S. 119 atop Coburn Mountain, southeast of Pikeville, said state Trooper Homer Coleman. West died 21/2 hours later.

Troopers were searching the wooded hills for gunmen.

The Williamson (W.Va.) Daily News reported that West and Johnson were employed by the P&S Trucking Co. of Raccoon, which has been hauling coal produced in Pike County by the Samoyed Energy Co.

Exchanges of gunfire between unidentified snipers and Samoyed security guards have been frequent in recent weeks, but until today there had been no reported injuries.

Samoyed recently purchased a mine at Canada and tipple near Belfry from the Sharondale Corp., which had contracts with the United Mine Workers union.

UMW pickets have maintained a presence near the Samoyed holdings to protest their conversions to non-union operations.

A company secretary said in a telephone conversation that all Samoyed officials were out of the office and were not expected to return to work today.

State police at the scene said West’s truck was struck by at least 21 rounds, three of which hit the windshield and two of which struck the driver’s door and window.

Johnson’s truck was hit by several rounds, at least one of which flattened a front tire, disabling the rig about a half-mile from where West’s truck was struck, police said.

The truckers were returning to the Canada mine after hauling their first load of the day to the tipple at Belfry, police said.

Within an hour of the shooting, volunteer firefighters at Belfry said they were called to the Samoyed tipple where they found a nearby wooden shed erected by UMW pickets in flames.

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