MHSA mine fatality report still pending

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Nearly five months after an explosion killed Trapper Mine employee Joseph Koonce, 42, officials are still awaiting the Mining Safety and Health Administration accident report.

According to Tommy Hooker, assistant manager for the District 9 office of the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a draft of the report is being reviewed at MSHA headquarters, but release of it is pending results of testing done on the explosives that caused the accident.

Koonce died instantly Aug. 12 after a primer on the mine's blast pattern detonated unexpectedly.

"Our primary concern will be to find out what caused the accident and what we can do to help prevent a similar occurrence," Hooker said.

Koonce worked for Trapper Mine for 18 years and had seven years experience in blasting operations as a "blast helper." There is a state certification for blasters, and officials are checking Koonce's certification.

According to Hooker, preliminary data showed blasting caps used to ignite a booster detonated before they were supposed to.

MSHA has created a "fatalgram" profiling the accident. The fatalgram includes best practice scenarios helping others to avoid similar accidents.

Precautions after this accident include: posting explosive manufacturer's safety precautions, additional instruction for all miners required to work with explosives and examination of all explosive materials for possible defects before usage.

To date, MSHA has recorded 31 mining fatalities across the nation compared to 26 in 1998.

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