Intermittent violence that has wracked the coal fields of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia for months claimed its first fatality yesterday when a trucker was killed after delivering a load of coal to a nonunion preparation plant.
Kentucky state police at Pikeville said Hayes West, 35, of Raccoon, Ky., was struck by one of about 40 bullets fired at his truck and a second one after they unloaded coal at the nonunion Samoyed Energy Co.'s plant.
A second driver, Royal Lee Johnson, 29, of Speight, Ky., was treated at Appalachian Regional Hospital at South Williamson, Ky., for a gunshot wound in the hand.
A company spokesman said there has been "violence on an almost daily basis" since Samoyed bought the Sharondale union mine at Canada, Ky., and reopened it as a nonunion operation Dec. 6.
James R. Scott, president of striking Local 2496, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Scott was indicted by a Pike County grand jury two weeks ago on an endangerment charge related to strike activities.
Joe Corcoran, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America in Washington, said the union "cannot respond intelligently" to questions about the shooting until it gets more information. He said "the union's position is that we categorically reject the use of violent tactics in any shape or form."
The attack occurred across the Tug River from Lobata, W.Va., where a nonunion mine owned by the A.T. Massey Co. has been the target of a sometimes violent strike since October.
West Virginia state police reported yesterday that shots were fired at two trucks en route to the Massey mine at Lobata and that one driver, Raymond Endicott, of Grundy, Va., was slightly wounded.
Yesterday's fatal shooting occurred on Coburn Mountain on U.S. 119. Within an hour of the 8 a.m. shooting, volunteer firemen at Belfry said they were called to put out a fire that destroyed a wooden shed erected by pickets outside the Samoyed plant gate.
Massey, one of the nation's largest coal producers, wants to negotiate separate contracts at each of its mines, but the UMWA insists on a single pact. The Samoyed spokesman said his 16-employe company has no connection with Massey.