Associated Press Published

Lawsuit: Agency Didn’t Do Enough To Stop Mine Disaster

Upper Big Branch Mine

A lawsuit filed by a miner’s widow says the Mine Safety and Health Administration didn’t do enough to stop the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports Carolyn Diana Davis filed the lawsuit Thursday that says MSHA didn’t do its job as a watchdog agency to prevent the disaster and was negligent in its enforcement of safety measures at the mine.

“The Plaintiff reasonably relied upon the United States to undertake its inspections and enforcement actions in a competent and non-negligent manner, and that reliance ultimately contributed to the wrongful death of Mr. Davis,” the lawsuit states.

The explosion that killed 29 miners happened in 2010, during a shift change, when a spark ignited a pocket of methane, causing massive explosions at the mine. Federal investigators say an accumulation of coal dust exacerbated the explosion.

The lawsuit cites reports from the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel, selected by then-Gov. Joe Manchin, which said MSHA knew about UBB’s faulty ventilation system and ignored warning signs.

It also cites a federal Independent Panel Assessment that found MSHA didn’t inspect the mine adequately.

“The IPA concluded that MSHA failed to adequately perform its duties at UBB, and that this failure had a causal relationship to the explosion,” the lawsuit states.

MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit.