The December 20 meeting followed another one on December 11, when a two-inch-thick document was dumped in their laps and state officials responded to questions by relatives of the miners with Read the report. The miners families outcry forced the state to withdraw it.
I dont believe the explanation, said Sara Bailey, daughter of deceased miner George Junior Hamner. Basically, all they have is a hypothesis. They are not telling us anything new.
Helen Winans, the mother of deceased miner Marshall Winans, walked out of the meeting too. Get off of the lightning, she said, referring to the claim in the state report that a lightning strike was the cause of the explosion. They might as well put a pig in there and let the pig run around the mine and say the pig caused it. Youd get as much sense.
Pam Campbell, sister-in-law of Marty Bennett, said she was particularly frustrated that the state report is a mirror image of the report from International Coal Group, the company that owns Sago Mine. The trouble is the coal industry wants the dollar from the coal, Campbell said. The coal is more important than a life. And that is the bottom line here. And we have to make sure that lives are more important than a ton of coal.
Campbell added, We were treated like little children. The presentation on the report was several hours long and those present were not allowed to ask questions until it was completed.
The day after the presentation, Ronald Wooten, director of West Virginias Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, and a former Consol Energy boss, told a reporter, As far as I know … it (Sago) was a well-operated coal mine.
Randal McCloy, the sole survivor of the Sago disaster, objected. Wootens comment was inappropriate and irresponsible, his media spokeswoman said. She added, The findings and the citations issued contradict the idea it was a well-run mine.
An outrage is how Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, described Wootens comments. The Sago mine had a pattern of significant safety problems, and those problems existed at the time of the explosion. For the state of West Virginias highest mine safety official to say otherwise in the face of these facts is inexcusable.
The Sago Mine had been cited by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration 273 times for safety violations in the two years prior to the disaster.
United Mine Workers contract ratified; ends retiree health coverage for new miners
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