Methane blast hurts 3 in W. Va.
Cutting torch ignited pocket of gas
Friday, July 21, 2006

By Dennis B. Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

An apparent flash of methane inside a coal mine along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border sent three men to hospitals and resulted in a daylong evacuation.
Three miners assigned to dismantle an old conveyor belt assembly inside the Blacksville No. 2 Mine were burned when a cutting torch ignited a small pocket of methane gas, a company spokesman said.

The flash fire occurred at about 9:30 a.m. "It was a quick flash, like a ball of fire," said Joe Cerenzia, a spokesman for Consolidation Energy, the mine's owner. He said none of the three men received injuries believed to be life-threatening.

"As of 1:30 today we have evacuated the day shift and we will not allow the evening shift to go in until we have determined whether there is some other issue that we have to deal with in that mine," Mr. Cerenzia said.

He said state and federal safety officials were on the scene and ordered the longwall section of the mine shut. He said the company voluntarily closed the rest of the mine until it is inspected.

Two of the three injured men were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital in nearby Morgantown, W.Va., where they were later released.

The third injured man was taken to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh.

None of the injured miners was identified.

The Blacksville mine is entered through an elevator portal in Greene County, Pa., but the working section is located in northern West Virginia. Tom Rathbun, a spokesman for Pennsylvania's mine enforcement office, said West Virginia officials would have jurisdiction in investigating the accident.

Caryn Gresham, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, said inspectors from that office were on the scene.

Mr. Cerenzia said approximately 90 employees work inside the Blacksville mine, and of that number roughly a half-dozen were working in the area of the methane fire.

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United States Mine Rescue Association