Thursday, March 29, 2012

Highest-ranking official yet admits to conspiracy in W.Va. mine disaster, agrees to help feds probe it

"The man in charge of ensuring the safety of miners at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch coal mine pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he helped conceal hazardous conditions from federal inspectors," Jackie Castillo reports for CNN. "Gary May is the highest-ranking executive of former mine owner Massey Energy charged in connection with an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners." May could get up to five years in prison and be fined $250,000 for conspiring to defraud the federal government, but he has agreed to cooperate with the investigation into the worst U.S. mining accident in decades." His sentencing is set for Aug. 9.

May admitted in court today that he tipped off mine managers that U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors were coming, that he falsified safety records and that he told miners "to rewire a device that monitored flammable methane gas levels, allowing mine equipment to run illegally," Castillo reports. "In a December report, MSHA found a methane ignition that set off flammable coal dust was the immediate cause of the 2010 explosion." (Read more)

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