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Natural Resources & Energy

Young Coal Miner Passes Away In Tragic Accident

black thunder coal mine
Cooper McKim
/
Wyoming Public Media
Black Thunder Coal Mine

Jeff Wendland, a 31-year old man, was fatally injured while performing a dragline repair at Arch Resource's Black Thunder coal mine.

The tragedy occurred on the morning of Wednesday, July 21.

Wendland was leading a work crew adding a section to the boom of a 200-ton crane. A boom is the long-fixed arm used to move objects. He was under the section being separated when it fell on his right shoulder and neck area.

Black Thunder requested an ambulance and life-flight at noon to transport Wendland. Emergency Medical Services pronounced him dead at the scene.

An autopsy was performed the same afternoon to document the extent of his injuries. According to the county coroner, the doctor found he died from mechanical asphyxiation from crushing injuries that were consistent with descriptions given by the several witnesses interviewed.

Wendland worked as a millwright at the mine and had been an employee at Black Thunder for 13 years.

Operations were briefly suspended at the mine.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event, and extend our most profound sympathies to Jeff’s family, friends and co-workers," said Keith Williams, president of Thunder Basin Coal Company. "We are focusing our energies on lending our support to Jeff's family during this incredibly difficult time. At the same time, we are dedicated to investigating and developing a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the incident, so that we can ensure that an event of this type never happens again."

According to a U.S. Department of Labor spokesman, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is now investigating the fatality, and when complete, a preliminary report will be available at the agency website here. The State Mine Inspector is also actively investigating the incident and is unable to comment.

In a statement, Black Thunder said it is working closely with federal and state officials to investigate the incident and determine the root cause.

Wendland is survived by his wife and four kids.

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