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Body search suspended at coal slurry site

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Crews at a Harrison County coal-slurry impoundment suspended their work Wednesday as they gathered different tools to help them recover the body of a coal miner who died when an embankment at the site collapsed two weeks ago.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere said the body recovery operation was temporarily halted at CONSOL Energy's Nolan Run slurry impoundment, located near the company's Robinson Run Mine.

"The divers are not working today and plan to acquire different tools in order to attempt to cut through the top of the cab and extract the victim," Louviere said. "Previously, they had attempted to cut a small hole in the top of the cab using torches, but they were unable to maintain an arc, and the water and slurry significantly inhibited the cutting process."

Divers believe it could take up to two days to cut through the top of the dozer cab, Louviere said.

On Monday, CONSOL said that the body of the bulldozer operator killed in the Nov. 30 collapse of a smaller "saddle dike" at the Nolan Run site had been located inside the vehicle's cab.

Divers located the dozer and its position over the weekend during a pipe dive at the impoundment, located near Lumberport in Harrison County.

The dozer operator was swept into the impoundment shortly after noon on Nov. 30, when the saddle dike's embankment collapsed. CONSOL was building the dike -- constructed of coarse coal refuse piled on top of finer coal slurry -- as part of a plan to expand the impoundment so it can continue as a disposal site for waste from the nearby Robinson Run Mine's preparation plant.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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