One dead in Black Thunder dragline incident

A coal miner is dead following an accident that occurred at Black Thunder Mine east of Wright yesterday afternoon, officials announced Thursday morning.

Law enforcement and mine officials have identified the miner as 31-year-old Jeff Wendland, a coal mining veteran and Gillette resident who was killed while performing repairs to a dragline shortly before noon on July 21.

Wendland was reportedly explaining to a crew of four other employees how to add a section to the boom of a 200-ton crane and was knocking out a retaining pin while standing beneath it, according to Campbell County Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.

The section reportedly separated, Reynolds continued, striking Wendland on the right side of his shoulder and neck area. He was pronounced dead at the scene by Emergency Medical Services and Life Flight personnel that responded to the call.

Jeff had worked for Black Thunder for 13 years and leaves behind his wife and four children, according to a prepared statement from Thunder Basin Coal Company.

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“We are deeply saddened by this tragic event, and extend our most profound sympathies to Jeff’s family, friends, and co-workers,” Keith Williams, president of Thunder Basin Coal Company said in the statement. “We are focusing our energies on lending our support to Jeff’s family during this incredibly difficult time.”

Black Thunder Mine is working closely with state and federal officials in a multi-agency investigation to determine the root cause of the incident. Mining operations, suspended yesterday, have since resumed, per the statement.

“We are dedicated to investigating and developing a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the incidents so that we can ensure that an event of this type never happens again,” Williams concluded.

A representative for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) declined to comment on the ongoing investigation Thursday morning.