Mine Worker Killed In Knox County Mine

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Mascot (WVLT) -- Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a contractor fell to his death in a Knox County mine.

The glow of the moon and emergency lights revealed silhouettes at Mascot's Immel Zinc Mine, where several miners had gathered in the midst of a terrible accident.

It was just after midnight on Sunday morning, and down inside the zinc mine's main shaft their co-worker has fallen to his death.

"It's a tragic situation and it affects everyone," said George Korda, a spokesman for the mine's owner, East Tennessee Zinc Company. "It was a contract employee that was employed by a mining and engineering firm that was working on this project."

Immel mine closed in 2001, but the contractor was part of a three man team working to reactivate it by replacing structural steel in the mine shaft.

"They were all at work when the when the accident occurred," Korda said.

East Tennessee Zinc Company owns the mine along with two more in Jefferson County.

Company spokesman George Korda says they don't know what caused the accident or how far he fell, but the other two workers are fine.

"Everyone at East Tennessee Zinc is broken hearted about this and everyone's thoughts and prayers are going out to the family," Korda said.

This marks the first death at a Tennessee mine this year.

According to the US Department of Labor, since 1996 there have been 19 deaths in mines across the state.

Two of those death's were in coal mines, the rest in metal and non-metal mines.

To compare, Kentucky has six times more mine deaths over that time period, good for first in the nation.

Now it's up to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to find out what caused this one.

According to Korda, East Tennessee Zinc Company doesn't mind the investigation.

"Information that will create an even more safe environment," he said.

The company says the investigation will go on for an indeterminate amount of time.

It says Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration has suspended all work to reactivate the mine, but says that's standard.

The company's other two mines in Jefferson County will stay open.

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