Ohio Co. couple sues Tunnel Ridge for mining accident injuries

By Kyla Asbury | May 18, 2015

WHEELING – An Ohio County couple is suing Tunnel Ridge LLC after injuries were sustained during a mining accident.

Maynard St. John; Eric Anderson; and Josh Duncan, known collectively as mine management, were also named as defendants in the suit.

On Dec. 17, 2013, at approximately 7:45 a.m., Kevin Bonitatibus and his crew arrived at the 4L long wall section of the Tunnel Ridge mine to recover hoses from a monorail that was in the beltline, as instructed by mine management, according to a complaint filed April 30 in Ohio Circuit Court.

Bonitatibus claims Duncan directed the crew to recover the hoses by utilizing an unauthorized and/or inappropriate recovery method.

During a prior shift, the recovery method employed by the defendants failed when at least one hose frayed completely apart and some were torn in half as a result of the immense pressure the unauthorized and/or inappropriate recovery method placed on the hose during the recovery, according to the suit.

Bonitatibus claims fully aware of the previous failure, Duncan and mine management nevertheless utilized the same procedure in an attempt to complete the hose recovery task quickly.

Despite the actual knowledge of the failure of the unauthorized and/or inappropriate operation on the prior shift, as well as being informed during the recovery process that the hourly employees were concerned about the safety of the method, the defendants directed Bonitatibus' crew to utilize the method to remove the longwall hoses, according to the suit.

Bonitatibus claims the crew was using a scoop pulling a 2-inch "Super Sucko" hydraulic return line with a sling strap and, unbeknownst to the plaintiff, at the time of his arrival on the scene, the hose was stretched to its maximum length.

The sling strap that was improperly holding the hose to the scoop car battery pit failed, releasing the built-up energy of the stretched hose, allowing it to whip and strike the plaintiff in an adjacent crosscut, according to the suit.

Bonitatibus claims he sustained a compound fracture of the left lower leg, tibia and fibula; a dislocated left shoulder; a torn left shoulder rotator cuff; a fractured vertebrae 6 and 7; numerous cuts and bruises; and a concussion.

As a further result of the injuries he suffered, Bonitatibus' leg became infected, requiring several additional surgeries, including a muscle graft and skin flap procedure.

Bonitatibus and his wife, Sally Bonitatibus are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are being represented by R. Dean Hartley, Mark R. Staun and Jacob R. Stout of Hartley & O'Brien PLLC.

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Martin J. Gaughan.

Ohio Circuit Court case number: 15-C-123

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