Montcoal, WV Mining Disaster, Apr 2010
In 2008, the Aracoma Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey, agreed to pay $4.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties and to plead guilty to several safety violations related to that fire.
This week's disaster came as a particular surprise because last year there were only 34 mining deaths, a record low.
Rescue workers described the blast as overwhelming - like nothing they had ever witnessed. Rail lines were twisted like pretzels, they said. Mining machines were blown to pieces. The conditions underground were such a mess after the explosion that is was only late Friday that rescuers realized that they had walked past the bodies of the four missing miners on the first day without seeing, a federal mine safety official said.
This week's blast comes after a year in which the Upper Big Branch mine had repeated problems with methane buildups. Since April 2009, federal regulators have cited the mine eight times for
"substantial" violations relating to the mine's methane control plans, according to the records.
In two instances, the regulators found the mine operator was calibrating methane monitors every three months even though it is supposed to be done every 31 days. The delays in attending to the monitors meant they could not properly detect the gas, a risk inspectors said could lead to severe injuries or prove fatal.
On April 30, 2009, federal regulators found that the mine had failed to follow methane-related safety precautions. Regulators stopped work in a section of the mine until the ventilation was corrected.
Kevin Stricklin, of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, said he planned an aggressive investigation of the disaster. "I can tell you this: No stone will be left unturned," he said.
President Obama earlier on Friday expressed his condolences to the families of those killed or injured in the mine explosion. In remarks in the Rose Garden, he said
"it's clear that more needs to be done" about mine safety, and he asked for a full report on what went wrong.
He said that he had spoken on Wednesday to members of the Davis family, who had lost three relatives in the explosion - TIMOTHY DAVIS, SR., and his two nephews, CORY DAVIS and JOSH NAPPER.