On Thursday, a Senate committee took testimony on coal mine safety after the explosion last month at a West Virginia operation run by Massey Energy that killed 29 men.
In his first testimony since the accident, the worst coal mine disaster in 40 years, Don L. Blankenship, the chairman and chief executive, came out swinging. The 23 miner fatalities at Massey mines in the decade before the Upper Big Branch explosion made his company “about average,” he said, and Massey was a leader in safety innovation but had been forbidden by the Mine Safety and Health administration from making some safety improvements….
At the hearing, another witness, Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, challenged Mr. Blankenship’s assertion that Massey’s safety record was average.
“I can’t come up with another coal company that’s had 23 miners in 10 years die,” Mr. Roberts, seated next to Mr. Blankenship at the witness table, said. “This isn’t average. This is deplorable.
“This is the worst fatality rate in the industry either way you look at it, either before the explosion or after the explosion.”
… Robert C. Byrd, the 92-year-old West Virginia Democrat, took a tough stance with Mr. Blankenship. “Twenty-nine men are now dead, dead, dead, simply because they went to work that morning,” he said.
The very next morning:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Another Massey Energy coal miner has died as a result of on-the-job injuries.
State of West Virginia spokesman Hoy Murphy says 55-year-old James Erwin of Delbarton died about 6 a.m. Friday.
Murphy says Erwin was pinned between a piece of heavy equipment and the wall at Massey’s Ruby Energy mine in Mingo County on May 10.