A powerful storm that hit about 6 p.m. Friday smashed the core of West Liberty in Morgan County city into rubble. Endre Samu, in the public affairs office of Kentucky State Police in Morehead, said three people were dead in West Liberty and at least 75 were injured. Emergency responders and citizens hastily banded together to form search parties during the night. Morgan County Deputy Sheriff Kenny Dulin said dozens of people were missing.
At least four people died in the East Bernstadt area of Laurel County Friday night after a severe storm moved through the area, according to county officials. At least 27 people were transported to Saint Joseph Hospital in London, said Albert Hale, director of emergency management for Laurel County.
Kentucky State police in Morehead on Friday said they had received reports of tornado damage in West Liberty. The National Weather Service in Jackson said it had received unconfirmed reports of major damage and possibility fatalities there.State police in Morehead said they had received reports of a tornado causing damage in West Liberty. The Morgan County town, about 80 miles east of Lexington, was severely damaged by a storm on Wednesday. The most serious damage occurred at the Country Carpet outlet, which lost its roof. Damage Wednesday mainly was centered in an area along U.S. 460 and Ky. 191 west of town. To learn the latest on tornado, storm and flood warnings and watches, click here.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has cited four Kentucky coal mines for safety violations. The mines were among 16 nationwide with a history of compliance problems targeted in MSHA’s special impact inspections. The mines cited were Exel Mining’s Van Lear Mine in Martin County, Perry County Coal’s E4-1 Mine and two Harlan County mines owned by K and D Mining and D&C Mining Corporation.
A house was destroyed by fire at Black Mountain on Friday, and within an hour, a church was burning no more than 200 yards away. The Harlan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the fires, and according to sheriff Marvin Lipfird, he has a suspect. “Because of the quick action by several fire departments and the diligent effort by the firefighters, they were able to contain the fire in the church,” Lipfird said.
An eastern Kentucky mining company and three of its top officials are facing indictment by a federal grand jury. But even so, federal indictments for mine safety violations are rare. A federal grand jury says Manalapan Mining Company and three of its officials willfully violated federal mine safety rules. The indictment says the mine operations manager, superintendent and foreman “failed to report and record hazardous conditions” at Manalapan’s P-1 Mine in Harlan County. The period they’re targeting culminated in a miner being killed by a roof collapse last summer.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals has overturned a previous ruling that restricts coal mining on Wilson Creek in Floyd County. In 2006, residents of Wilson Creek asked the Energy and Environment Cabinet to declare the area unsuitable for mining. They cited concerns about water quality, flooding and the destruction of renewable resources. The cabinet rejected the petition, but placed certain restrictions on mining in the area.
Eastern Kentucky counties continued to dig out Monday from a weekend snow that left more than 34,000 customers without power at one point. Hardest hit were Perry, Knott, Leslie and Letcher counties, where 6 to 8 inches of snow brought down tree limbs and utility lines. Breathitt, Pike and Floyd counties also had significant outages.
Approximately 1,200 homes in Harlan County were reported without electricity on Sunday as snow blanketed the area. Kentucky Utilities spokesman Cliff Feltham said less than 50 homes were still left without power on Monday.
Although much of central Kentucky was spared this past weekend, that certainly wasn’t the case in eastern Kentucky where snowfall was moderate to heavy. David Shellenberger is with the national weather service in Jackson. “Looking at our snow totals..the highest total we’ve gotten so far is at Shelby Gap and that’s in Pike County,” said Schellenberger.
Lancaster Mayor Brenda Powers refused to resign Monday and asked for a full public hearing to answer allegations made against her last week by members of the Lancaster City Council. In addition, Powers accused city council members of violating the state Open Meetings Act and said she would ask the state attorney general's office to investigate. Last week, members of the city council presented Powers with a memorandum outlining more than 20 allegations of misconduct, willful neglect of duties and incapacity. The memorandum, signed by five of the six council members, sought her resignation by Monday.
Coal truck traffic is causing major problems on some Pike County roads, officials said this week. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Pike County Fiscal Court, court members voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency on a pair of state highways in Pike County, in part because the volume of coal truck traffic on the narrow, winding highways is creating a traffic hazard.
Alpha Natural Resources Inc. has announced the closure of four mines in Kentucky and West Virginia and reduced coal production at others. “In Harlan County, two of the Still House Mining Companies are being closed, one being Mine Number One known as Perkins Branch and the other is Cave Spur,” said Alpha Natural Resources Corporate Communications Vice President Ted Pile. The closing will put 129 miners out of work in Harlan County, Pile said.
Alpha Natural Resources is idling or reducing production at 10 mines in Kentucky and West Virginia. The company is blaming poor market conditions for coal. Alpha is idling two underground mines in Harlan County. The company also plans on phasing out production on two surface mines—one in Harlan County and one in Knott County. Alpha was able to relocate 52 of the miners to other operations, but 168 are without jobs. Three of the four mines were originally owned by Massey Energy, which Alpha bought last year.
The federal government today announced the third phase of a program designed to reduce the number of fatalities in the nation’s mines. The first two phases of MSHA’s “Rules to Live By” focused on the most frequently cited violations that contributed to both individual deaths and major mining accidents. In this third phase, the agency is pinpointing the most common accidents that caused mine fatalities over the last decade. Miners will receive extra training in those areas, and inspectors will be taught to better recognize those hazards.
As police officers from across Kentucky and parts of West Virginia fought back tears, the last call for a public servant who was killed in the line of duty was given, just days after his death. Pike County Sheriff’s Deputy James Ireland Thacker was laid to rest on an overcast Friday afternoon in front of family, friends and nearly 200 fellow police officers from all across Kentucky, as well as some from West Virginia. More than 300 people attended a memorial service for Thacker at East Ridge High School.
A mine related accident occurred Tuesday at the Fox Knob Mine Number 7, owned and operated by JAD Coal Inc., located at Forrester's Creek in Coldiron. According to information received from the Kentucky Division of Natural Resources, James Nash, 48 of Speedwell, Tenn., was operating a D-11 dozer, which overturned causing him to receive serious injuries. Nash was transported by helicopter to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., where he remains.
As officials continue to investigate a crash which killed a Pike County Sheriff’s deputy on Monday, support continues to pour in for the fallen officer, his family and the department which he served. Pike County Sheriff Charles “Fuzzy” Keesee said Tuesday that his department has received numerous calls offering support from agencies across the state in the wake of the death of Sheriff’s Deputy James Ireland Thacker, 53, who was killed in a nighttime crash on U.S. 460 at Road Creek.
UPDATED: A Pike County sheriff's deputy has died in a three-vehicle car crash. WSAZ-TV reported the accident occurred about 9 p.m. Monday on U.S. 460 between the Marrowbone and Belcher communities. The Pike County Sheriff's Office told the West Virginia TV station that the deputy was James I. Thacker. Kentucky State Police say the deputy was on duty and on his way back to Elkhorn City from Pikeville when the three-vehicle crash happened.
An Elkhorn City man was arrested twice over the weekend after allegedly being found intoxicated behind the wheel twice in 24 hours. During his first DUI stop, Steven D. Miller, 36, reportedly admitted to a police officer that he'd been drinking but "not that much."
A drug roundup in Pike County resulted in the arrest of nearly a dozen people on Tuesday. According to a statement from Operation UNITE, 10 people were arrested in Tuesday’s round-up which sought the arrest of 18 people suspected of drug trafficking.
Anyone who has eaten lunch at the Bread of Life Café in Liberty has no doubt been greeted by a young man who buses tables and always has a smile on his face. But what’s remarkable about the man is not his pleasant disposition but the fact that he does the work without any hands. Abdul Samad, 35, a refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan, lost both hands and his left eye when, as a teen, he picked up what he thought was a toy but turned out to be a landmine left by the Russians during the war.
Lingering flames stopped shooting from a broken gas transmissions pipeline in Estill County on Tuesday, leaving authorities with the task of determining what caused the Monday night explosion that wrecked the line. The blast frightened residents across Estill County, some fearing the nearby Blue Grass Army Depot, which stores large quantities of nerve gas, near Richmond had exploded. No injuries were reported, and most of the 30 to 35 families evacuated after the blast had returned to their homes by late Tuesday, according to the Estill County Emergency Management Agency. But a few homes near the gas line sustained damage such as broken windows or seared siding, officials said.
UPDATE: Flames continued to shoot into the air Tuesday morning from a broken gas transmission line in Estill County as work crews allowed residual gas in the line to burn off. All but one of the 30 to 35 families evacuated from the area when the gas line blew out Monday night had returned to their homes as of Tuesday morning, said Estill County Judge Executive Wallace Taylor. The one family that still had not returned lived the closest to the explosion and their residence suffered some minor damage, he said.
A gas line explosion lit up the sky in Estill County on Monday night. The blast occurred about 7 p.m. along Ky. 89 about 7 miles outside of Irvine, Estill County Judge-Executive Wallace Taylor said. There were no initial reports of injuries, but 30 to 35 homes within a half-mile radius of the explosion were evacuated, said Melissa Jessie, public information officer for the Estill County Emergency Management Agency.
Bonnie Mills had 35 years of memories in her old coal-camp house in Knox County, so she hoped she could make repairs and stay in it after it was damaged by flooding last June. Mills started clearing away gooey mud the day the water receded and kept at it for weeks while staying in a rented place nearby, but relief officials and others eventually convinced her the house couldn't be fixed. She used federal disaster aid to buy a new mobile home, 48 feet long by 14 feet wide, and had it set up a few yards from her old house.
Throughout her short-lived life, Harlan County native Mary Ann Robinson had many mountains to climb, many doors closed in her face, but she didn’t let that stop her from accomplishing things others thought she couldn’t. Widowed at the age of 34 with eight children to raise, Robinson had heard about a federal law called the Equal Pay Act, which passed in 1963, and protected both women and men from sex discrimination in pay rates. Because of this law, she chose to apply for work in the coal mines, where women weren’t working in the area, to support her family.
A Breathitt County man faces two years in prison over charges that he sold a federally protected bird. Danny Gayheart of Noctor admitted that he sold the three Red-Tailed Hawks to an undercover agent in Winchester for $50 each earlier this year. But he’ll end up paying more than that to rehabilitate the two surviving birds—Gayheart agreed to more than $1600 in costs associated with rehabilitating the birds and releasing them into the wild.
Employee pay rates and recent citations from environmental and occupational safety agencies took center stage at a special called meeting of the Cumberland City Council on Thursday. Mayor Carl Hatfield brought up comments from state and federal officials. “Every time they come in they say that we are not paying our people enough to keep them on the job. That’s true. We have qualified people, but we don’t have certified people. Other cities are paying their plant supervisors as high as $22 and even $25 per hour. We were paying our highest paid supervisors $15 an hour, so they left. We currently don’t have a supervisor. Our pay rates go back twenty years,” said Hatfield.
The federal government has finished its investigation into last year’s fatal explosion at a West Virginia coal mine. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has imposed record penalties and is standing behind previous statements that the accident was preventable.