Massey Disputes MSHA Report as Families Speak Out

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Jan 21, 2011 in Coal Mining Accidents

Just a day after the Mine Safety and Health Administration released its preliminary conclusions on the causes of the Upper Big Branch explosion last April, mine owner Massey Energy told reporters the company's findings were "quite different." Massey representatives did not participate in MSHA's presentations to the family and the press.

MSHA's investigation found that multiple system and maintenance failures contributed to the blast; the buildup of coal dust was blamed for the magnitude of the explosion. Massey insists that a buildup of methane caused the accident . The company disagreed with MSHA's findings that worn bits and malfunctioning water sprays on the shearer played a role -- indeed, Massey seems to believe that there were no problems with either the bits or the sprays. The company dismissed coal dust as a major cause, as well, saying that the mine was "well rock-dusted."

Massey was scheduled to present their findings to families today, but a winter storm delayed the meeting for a few weeks. The company also intends to meet with MSHA.

A sister of one of the victims told National Public Radio that she was stunned and angry when she heard MSHA's report. "I could never have believed that there could have been such neglect," she said. Her brother had worked in underground mines for 30 years. His mother-in-law had told a congressional committee that the victim, a crew boss, had stopped his crew from working in such unsafe conditions. The company threatened to fire him, she said; because he was afraid of losing health insurance coverage for his special-needs son, he went back to work.

"Where's the integrity in the system?" his sister asked. "I don't want any other family to have to suffer what my family has had to suffer."


Register-Herald (Beckley, WV) "Massey Disputes MSHA Findings on UBB Blast" 01/21/11

National Public Radio "'This Family Is Fractured,' Says Sister of Miner Killed in West Virginia" 01/21/11

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