Explosion Kills Pennsylvania Anthracite Miner

A veteran coal miner was killed in an explosion at a Pennsylvania anthracite mine, bringing the number of U.S. coal mine fatalities to 42.

In the wake of the Oct. 23 explosion, R&D Coal Co. - located in Schuylkill County in Pennsylvania - has been cleared and no miners remain underground, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Media reports have stated that five miners who were in the mines during the explosion were able to escape.

At 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, the miners checked for methane gas after drilling holes for explosives. One of the miners then gave an "all-clear" and the other miner detonated the explosives, according to MSHA's preliminary report. Witnesses claim the first two explosions sounded normal and the third one sounded "excessive," according to the MSHA report.

The victim was 42-year-old Dale Reightler, who became the first casualty in a Pennsylvania anthracite mine since 1998. Gary Laudenslager, 23, was killed in July 1998 by an apparent underground gas explosion at Summit Anthracite, also in Schuylkill County.

Nationwide, 2006 has been the deadliest year for coal mining since 2001, when 42 coal miners perished.

MSHA, DEP Investigating

MSHA spokesman Dirk Fillpot informed OccupationalHazards.com that the accident is under investigation and did not give further details. DEP also has said that the cause of the accident has not been determined.

The day after the explosions, inspectors from DEP's Bureau of Mine Safety and MSHA began their search underground to find out exactly what caused the accident after making sure the mine was safe to enter, according to DEP.

According to MSHA records, an explosion at an R & D Coal mine in 2004 injured four workers. Inspections made earlier in 2004 did not reveal any significant violations, according to MSHA.

Anthracite mines in Pennsylvania are inspected every 2 months by DEP mine inspectors, and twice a year by the department's electrical inspectors. MSHA inspects anthracite mines quarterly.

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