Investigation opened into cause
Four miners working at the Elk Creek coal mine in Somerset were injured Saturday, August 9 after the vehicle that was taking them through the mine hit a wall. Three other miners riding with them were uninjured.
The accident occurred at around 3 p.m. when the vehicle carrying the miners attempted to make a 90-degree turn but was unable to slow down, says Jim Cooper, an executive vice-president with Oxbow Mining, which owns the Elk Creek Mine. He says the driver reported the vehicle’s throttle sticking.
After the truck collided with the wall of the mine, which was unaffected, the decision was made to call a helicopter to evacuate the three injured miners to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
“The flight for life was an error on the part of the miners. But I agree with the reaction to the injuries and it’s best to err on the side of caution,” says Cooper.
The worst of the injuries came to Robin Bustamante, who suffered two broken ribs, bruising on her back and a cut that ran from above her left eye through her hairline that required 13 staples, meaning three weeks out of work.
For the other two injured miners, Kevin Long and Victor Parra, cuts, bruises and some post-accident aches will mean a few days of missed work. Parra will have a scar from a cut down the centerline of his head that required 13 stitches.
A fourth miner, whose injuries didn’t require evacuation, received a “baseball-sized” contusion over his eye and will also miss a few days of work, according to the injury report from the incident.
The mine has been cited 225 times in the past year for things ranging from a missing fire extinguisher in an electrical area to an accumulation of coal dust on the mining equipment. A citation was issued on July 29 for “mobile and stationary machinery” maintenance, although the citation does not mention the type of machinery.
A federal investigation into the crash is ongoing, involving one inspector from as far away as Virginia.
“If this had been on a highway someone would get a careless driving ticket. But since it is an underground coal mine, we have a federal investigation,” says Cooper.