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Worker dies in TECO Energy mine

A section of roof collapses on the 33-year-old man at the Hazard, Ky., facility.

By LOUIS HAU
Published February 17, 2006


A 33-year-old roof bolter working in a Hazard, Ky., mine owned by TECO Energy Inc. was killed Thursday after part of the mine's roof collapsed on him.

The accident, the first underground death at a mine owned by the Tampa utility since 2000, occurred at a time of heightened safety awareness in the coal-mining industry. On Jan. 2, an explosion at an International Coal Group coal mine in Sago, W.Va., killed 12 miners. During the next month, seven miners died in accidents at other mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Utah.

On Thursday, Tim Caudill, a roof bolter employed by TECO subsidiary TECO Coal was moving equipment in the company's Hazard 4 mine at about 8:25 a.m. when a section of the mine's roof gave way, causing rock and debris to strike him, TECO said.

Caudill was removed from the mine about 9:15 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 10 a.m. at Hazard Appalachian Regional Hospital, said Holly McCoy-Johnson of the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.

TECO Coal president Jim Shackleford described Caudill's death as "a highly unusual situation for our company." TECO is investigating the accident, he said, as it cooperates with federal and state regulatory agencies.

"We can't begin to imagine what a tragedy this is for Tim's family, including his wife, Vivian, and his children, Jeremy and Leslie," Shackleford said. "The heart of every man and woman at TECO Coal goes out to Tim's family at this time of profound and shared grief. He was a valued member of our team."

Although U.S. coal mines recorded a record-low 22 deaths in 2005, the deaths of the West Virginia coal miners have refocused national attention on the need to improve mine safety and enforcement of safety regulations.

Caudill's death came on the same day the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said it plans to raise fines for mine-safety violations amid criticism that it has been too lax in punishing mine operators who break safety rules.

Thursday's accident was the first underground death at a TECO mine since a contracted worker died in 2000 and was the first underground death of a TECO Coal employee since 1990.

More recently, a 34-year-old truck driver employed by a contractor drove his truck off the side of a bridge at TECO's Hazard mining site April 4, 2003. The deadly accident resulted in federal safety citations against the contractor and TECO Coal.

On Nov. 27, 2001, a 41-year-old TECO Coal plant operator fell more than 100 feet through a doorway of a sixth-floor coal-preparation plant at the Hazard site. TECO was cited for a federal safety violation.

Before Thursday, 10 workers had died at mines operated by TECO Energy since 1988, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. But those figures include the deaths of contracted workers that didn't necessarily result in TECO citations.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration's death totals include two heart attacks, TECO spokeswoman Laura Duda said. Caudill was the fifth TECO employee to have died in accidents at TECO mining facilities since 1988, she said. More detailed figures on accidents dating to TECO's first acquisition of coal mines in 1975 weren't available Thursday.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report. Louis Hau can be reached at 813 226-3404 or hau@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 17, 2006, 02:15:35]


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