MSHA offers no comment on investigation into mining death

Published: Jan. 14, 2019 at 1:28 PM EST
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A man from Clinton, Tennessee is dead following a mining accident in Bell County, Kentucky.

The accident happened off KY-2012 at the Toms Fork mine, owned by Nally and Hamilton, in the Balkan community, near the Harlan County line.

Officials said the victim, 56-year-old Jeffrey Norman Slone from Clinton, Tennessee, was a contracted worker for Tennco Energy Inc.

According to a release from Kentucky State Police, Slone was working as a surveyor.

Officials said that Slone, an engineer contracted by Tenneco Energy, was on mine property when a power haulage accident involving a shuttle car killed him. KSP says that the incident occurred at about 11:20 a.m. Slone was approximately 600 feet underground when the incident occurred. He was transported to Pineville Hospital and later pronounced dead.

All mining operations were shut down and will continue to be suspended while an investigation continues, KSP said.

When news of Slone's death reached Tennessee, his church family was shocked. Slone was one of the pastors at the Second Baptist Church in Clinton. They say that, just Sunday, Slone had performed a baptism.

"It was a devastating loss to our church family. Jeff Slone was more than an ordinary church member," Pastor Michael Thompson, said. "Of course, none of us would ever dream that would be his last service with us."

Slone was previously a pastor at a church in Virginia. While he was a man of God, those close to him say he was also a family man. Slone had a wife, two children, and grandchildren.

Kentucky officials offered their condolences as well.

“Our hearts are broken for all those affected by today’s fatal accident at the Toms Fork Mine in Bell County,” said Gov. Bevin. “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."

“We are grateful for the men and women who work each day in a wide variety of jobs to make sure that our lights stay on day and night, regardless of the season,” Gov. Bevin added.

KSP says the mine was licensed by the Division of Mine Safety on Nov. 16, 2018; and there have been two inspections since the mine opened that resulted in one closure order for roof control. KSP says that issue was fixed the next day.

On Tuesday, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) would not say whether or not the mine was still closed.

“My deepest sympathies go out to the Slone family,” Kentucky Energy and Environment Secretary Charles G. Snavely said. “We will learn more about how this accident happened and what can be done to prevent another such loss of life.”

Coal mining was not one of the most dangerous jobs in Kentucky in 2017. According to the

, 70 people died on the job in Kentucky that year, and only two of them were working in mining, quarrying, or oil and gas extraction. Far more people, 18, were killed in the agricultural, forestry, and fishing and hunting industries. Sixteen were killed while working trade, transportation and utilities jobs.

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