Richard Coots, Jr. wasn’t killed in a massive explosion, and the accident that claimed him barely made a ripple of news beyond Eastern Kentucky. He died the way coal miners typically die on the job, in one- or two-man tragedies. His death was not followed by a candlelight vigil.
On Oct. 7, 2011, Coots was killed in Owlco Energy Mine No. 1, in Letcher County, Ky. He was trying to fix a busted conveyor belt when he was crushed by a large piece of mining machinery. His body was carried out of the mine with the help of his younger brother, Jeremy Coots, who was working nearby. The elder Coots, who was known simply as "Junior," was only 23 years old.
On Thursday the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released its investigation into Coots' death. Federal officials determined that Coots was killed because the management at Owlco had failed to take the necessary precautions for the repair and hadn't trained its miners properly. The accident was deemed "correctable through reasonable management controls." Owlco has not yet been fined for any failings.