The Vale supervisor in charge of the crew on which Stephen Perry was working Jan. 29, 2012, when he was killed at Coleman Mine fought tears as he told a coroner’s inquest about finding the miner slumped in the basket of the machine he was operating underground.
Michael Johnson received a radio call when he was having lunch about noon in a refuge station that Perry, 47, was in “late” status, meaning he hadn’t been heard from by radio for at least two hours.
Johnson left the lunchroom to go to the heading at 36 West at the 4,215-level of Coleman to look for Perry. When he got there, the air motor of the loader Perry was operating was still running and Perry was slouched in a corner of the basket of the machine.
Johnson said he shook Perry and got no response, so he called workers from two other areas of the mine to assist him. He noted that muck, a mixture of broken rock and water, was piled in front of the basket in which Perry was working. Perry was loading explosives into drilled holes in the face or wall of an ore body, which was to be blasted to break up ore and rock.
Johnson broke down when he told the inquest he proceeded to move the basket of the machine away from the face, and that both crews helped him get Perry out of the basket.
There was no muck in the basket, so Johnson had been able to pull Perry up, although when he checked his pulse, he couldn’t find one.
He and the men from the two crews got Perry out of the basket and onto a stretcher, and loading the unresponsive man into the back seat of a Toyota vehicle similar to a Jeep.
The inquest heard from earlier witnesses that it took less than 10 minutes to drive Perry from the 4,215-level to surface. Witnesses said there wasn’t enough room in the back seat of the Toyota to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Perry and that it was too bumpy in the back of the vehicle to do so anway. But Perry had not shown any signs of life when he was placed in the vehicle.
Eight witnesses testified at the first day of the mandatory coroner’s inquest into the death of Perry, a development miner with 16 years’ experience who was described by colleagues as a skilled miner with a good work ethic who wasn’t afraid to speak up if he saw something wrong.
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