The body of the last of four coal miners killed in a massive underground rock fall was recovered yesterday, deep inside a coal mine in the mountainous western tip of Virginia.
Miners working in three shifts retrieved the bodies of three miners Thursday and continued digging through huge slabs of slate before recovering the last victim, said Mike Abbott, of the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
The rock fall at the LJ's Coal Corp. mine was Virginia's worst mining accident since 1983, when seven Clinchfield Coal Co. workers were killed by an underground explosion in Dickenson County.
Killed were section foremen Harold Dowell, 50, and Wayne Mosely, 38, and roof bolters Danny Roberts, 30, and Floyd Varble, 27, Abbott said. All were from Pennington Gap.
The four miners apparently were installing roof bolts -- long expansion bolts that help support the rock layers immediately above the shaft -- in the 3-foot-high passage when a huge section of coal and rock above them gave way Wednesday. Inspectors estimated the rock mass that fell was 10 feet high, 22 feet wide and 200 feet long.
Abbott said an investigation will begin next week. It may take inspectors for the state agency and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration two to four weeks to finish, he said.