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Crushed miner 'may' have pressed fatal button: coroner
04/06/2012 - A miner who was crushed to death in NSW's Hunter Valley may have accidentally pushed a remote control button that released 10 tonnes of rocks onto his truck, a coroner has found.
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David Hurst Oldknow, 59, was two-thirds through an overnight shift at Xstrata's Ravensworth underground mine on February 18, 2009, when he died.
The 59-year-old's job was collecting "chitter" - a mix of rejected coal and rocks - from an overhead bin and driving it to a nearby sorting area.
An inquest at Glebe Coroner's Court heard evidence that at about 2.20am, 10 tonnes of chitter fell from the reject bin No.802, with five tonnes crushing Oldknow's cabin.
In his findings, Deputy NSW Coroner Scott Mitchell was unable to explain definitively why the rocks fell.
Evidence suggested Oldknow may have slightly over-reversed underneath the bin and was moving forward very slowly when the fall occurred.
His vehicle set off infrared sensors designed to "latch" or prime the overhead bin to open.
Mitchell was also unable to conclude definitively how or why a remote control button that released the rocks onto the truck was activated.
The "A" button was inside the cabin, and Mitchell said the miner may have inadvertently pushed it.
"I am unable ... to say how it was that he (Mr Oldknow) pressed the remote A button and whether, realising that he had made a mistake, he pressed the B button on the remote control in order to abort a drop of chitter," Mitchell wrote.
The deputy coroner made no safety recommendations, saying that loading procedures at the mine had already changed fundamentally.
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