After a record low, coal mine deaths surge in 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Coal mining deaths surged in the U.S. in 2017, one year after they hit a record low.

The nation's coal mines recorded 15 deaths last year, including one at the Bridger Underground Mine in Wyoming’s Sweetwater County.

In the Wyoming death, the Mine Safety and Health Administration reported that the victim lost control of a bulldozer that rolled. The victim did not use a seat belt and was partially ejected from the bulldozer cab.

The other deaths were: eight in West Virginia; two in Kentucky, and one each in Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

In 2016 there were eight U.S. coal mine deaths; none in Wyoming.

West Virginia has led the nation in coal mining deaths in six of the past eight years. That includes 2010, when 29 miners were killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia.

Retired coal company executive David Zatezalo of Wheeling was appointed in September by President Donald Trump as the new chief of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.