At approximately 2:08 p.m. on November 20, 1996, a coal burst occurred on the 005-0 working section located in the Second Left panel off Nine Right off of the No. 3 East Main entries of Harlan Cumberland Coal Company's, C-2 Mine. Nine miners were working on the section at the time of the burst. The coal burst resulted in the deaths of two of the miners located on the section. Four other miners sustained varying degrees of injury.
As room pillar No.1 was mined, much of its load was released and transferred to the already highly stressed adjacent pillars. This sudden pressure increase on the adjacent pillars was sufficient to cause failure of coal near or into the core of these pillars, and resulted in the burst.
The coal ribs were not controlled to protect persons from the hazards of a coal burst in the three rooms off Second Left (MMU 005-0), an active working section where persons worked and traveled. The coal burst damaged the ribs of all nine pillars in the rooms, blowing in excess of 1,500 tons of coal into the room entries and crosscuts.
On Wednesday, November 20, 1996 at approximately 5:45 a.m., the 005-0 working section's second (day) shift crew, consisting of eight miners traveled underground accompanied by Darrell Lewis, foreman. Arriving on the section at approximately 6:25 a.m., they were met by Ernie Boggs, maintenance foreman, who had conducted the pre-shift examination earlier that morning. Boggs reported to Lewis that nothing unusual had been found during the course of his examination.
Darrell Lewis proceeded to issue instructions to the crew members and coal production began at approximately 6:30 a.m.
Production commenced by advancing the left crosscut in the No. 2 room. Successive cuts were then advanced without incident, in all three rooms, until the room entries and crosscuts were connected to the gob.
After completing these connections the continuous mining machine was moved to the No. 1 room pillar to take the initial cut, beginning pillar extraction. The initial cut was advanced into the No. 1 pillar approximately 15 feet deep when, at approximately 2:08 p.m., a coal burst occurred, claiming the lives of Mark Skidmore and, subsequently, that of Randy Lewis, both roof bolting machine operators. Four other miners sustained various degrees of injury. Injured were: Darrell Lewis; John Carroll, scoop operator/roof bolting machine operator; and, Jim Carr and David Harris, both continuous mining machine operators.
The force of the coal burst was felt by other employees located on the 005-0 working section and was detected by seismic stations of the University of Kentucky, at four locations, averaging a magnitude of 2.7 on the Richter Scale. However, no persons outside the immediate area of the coal burst were adversely affected. No other significant seismic events were recorded either immediately prior to or after the accident.