Woman sues over father's mine injury death

By Cara Bailey | Oct 6, 2008

CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County woman has filed a suit on behalf of the estate of her father, who died from injuries sustained in a mining accident.

CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County woman has filed a suit on behalf of the estate of her father, who died from injuries sustained in a mining accident.

Rhonda Brogan filed the suit Aug. 27 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Spartan Mining Company and Millennium Vulcanizing Inc.

According to the suit, her father, David J. Neal, a Nicholas County resident, was employed by Spartan as a belt man/fire boss.

On Dec. 3, 2007, Neal was assigned to replace worn out bottom rollers on the cross-hollow conveyor belt on the surface area of the underground mine in Hughes Creek in Kanawha County.

At the same time Neal was beginning his shift, a team from Millennium Vulcanizing was working on the same belt. According to the suit, they had been contracted to make a vulcanized splice on the belt.

According to the suit, the circuit breaker that locked the belt during maintenance had a broken handle. Therefore, the belt could not be de-energized and locked while Neal and the Millennium team were working.

While Neal was lying on the belt replacing the rollers the belt started, the suit says. The belt has a "10-second start up alarm" that was supposed to sound and alert workers that the belt was about to move.

However, the alarm was not loud enough for Neal to hear.

"Had Mr. Neal heard the start up alarm he would have taken action to move out of harm's way," the suit said. "Because the two start up alarms were not maintained in such a way so that they could be heard at the location where Mr. Neal was working on the belt, he did not have an opportunity to get out of harm's way prior to the belt starting to move."

The area where Neal was working was approximately eight to 12 inches high, the suit says. When the belt started, Neal screamed for the belt to be turned off, the suit says.

Neal was pulled approximately 50 feet and slammed into several cross-support beams along the way. He then fell 40 feet onto a frozen coal pile below.

A mine trainee, David Shelton, saw Neal's cap light go by on the bottom belt and tried to pull the cord to stop the belt, but the belt continued, the suit says.

Shelton then pulled cords in two other locations and the belt stopped after coasting another 50 feet.

Neal was airlifted to Charleston Area Medical Center, where he endured multiple surgeries, but never regained consciousness and died ten days after the accident.

According to the suit, the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training cited Spartan Mining for violations inspectors concluded caused Neal's fatal fall.

In the three-count suit, Rhonda Brogan claims she and her family suffered sorrow, mental anguish, solace, including loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of Neal. They also endured the medical and funeral expenses.

Brogan seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Attorney Sean McGinley is representing Brogan. The case has been assigned to Judge James Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 08-C-1646

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