A Whitley County coal miner died Thursday morning in an accident at a Rockholds strip mine.
Sheriff Colan Harrell said the miner has been identified as 33-year-old Joe Partin, who lived in the southern Whitley County.
Officials with the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet said Partin was killed when a section of highwall approximately 15 feet high collapsed on him.
John Mura, a spokesperson for the Energy and Environmental Cabinet, said a highwall is a seam of coal in the face of a mountain.
Mura said Partin was performing maintenance work on an auger used to drill into the vertical face to extract the coal when the collapse occurred.
“He was toward the front of the machine changing some equipment,” Mura said of Partin.
Cabinet officials said Partin was an auger operator/foreman at the mine with eight years of mining experience.
Partin had begun his shift at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Harrell said the incident occurred just after 2 a.m.
The mine is Green Hill Mining, Inc.’s GHM#51 off of Tye’s Ferry Road (Ky. 3423)
Cabinet officials said the mine was last inspected on December 15 and a safety initiative was held at the mine on January 9.
“Neither visit turned up unsafe conditions,” cabinet officials stated
“He worked very hard, loved his wife and kids and family and friends,” Matt Leach, one of Partin’s friends, posted on Partin’s Facebook page. “I will miss my best friend and I will never get to fish with or play ball with but I will treasure all the fun times we had.”
Gov. Matt Bevin asked the community pray for Partin and his family, which includes his wife and two young children.
During times of great sorrow, communities must come together and find strength in one another. Though we are not all from Whitley County, we are part of the special community that is Kentucky,” Bevin said. “Let the family members, friends and coworkers of this young miner draw strength from our outpouring of support and love from across the Commonwealth during this trying time. United we stand, divided we fall.”
Two coal miners in Kentucky died from on-site accidents in 2016. Partin’s death marks the second such incident in Kentucky in 2017.