Second Mining Death of 2019 Kills Surveyor

Liz Carey

Bell County, KY ( – A Tennessee surveyor is dead after a coal mining accident in an eastern Kentucky.

A spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment cabinet said Jeffrey Norma Sloan, 56, of Clinton, Tenn., died Monday morning after an accident at the Toms Fork Mine, owned by Tennco Energy Inc., near Middlesboro, Ky. Sloan was transported to Pineville Hospital where he was later declared dead.

According to reports, Sloan was hit by a shuttle car while he was working as a surveyor some 600 feet underground. Officials called the accident a power haulage accident.

The Kentucky Department for Natural Resources, Division of Mine Safety said in a statement that it has sent investigators to the mine. The mine was shut down and operations there will be shuttered pending an investigation, officials said.

“Our hearts are broken for all those affected by today’s fatal accident at the Tom’s Fork Mine in Bell County,” Gov. Matt Bevin said in a statement. “We invite citizens of the Commonwealth and beyond to join us in praying for this miner’s family, friends, co-workers and the entire Southeastern Kentucky community during this very difficult time.”

Kentucky State Police said in a press conference that the mine was licensed by the Division of Mine Safety in Nov. 2018, and has been subjected to two inspections since opening. One of those inspections resulted in a closure for roof control.

The death marks the first mining death of 2019 in Kentucky and the second in the U.S. Earlier this month, John Ditterline, 55, a 30-year mining veteran, was found dead alongside a pair of automatic doors in the Hamilton County Coal Mine in Illinois. That accident was just six days into the year. In 2017, the first fatality didn’t occur until January 25, mining officials said. In 2016, the first accident was in West Virginia on February 6.

According to the US Coal Mining and Health Administration, mining fatalities have been on the decline over the past decade. In 2008, the USCMHA noted 30 fatalities. That number rose to 48 in 2010, but has mostly decreased since then. In 2016, there were only 8 mining deaths. The number rose to 15 in 2017. There were only 12 fatalities in 2018.

In the past, fatalities in mining have been much higher. In 1900, when the administration started keeping records, there were 1,489 fatalities in mining. That number rose to a high of 3,247 in 1907. In 1919, the number of fatalities dropped below 1,000. By 1983, the number dropped for the first time below 100.

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