Massey Aracoma foreman facing charges

A FOREMAN for Massey Energy’s Aracoma operation where two workers were killed in 2006 has been indicted on five federal charges.
Massey Aracoma foreman facing charges Massey Aracoma foreman facing charges Massey Aracoma foreman facing charges Massey Aracoma foreman facing charges Massey Aracoma foreman facing charges

 

Donna Schmidt

According to the Associated Press, David Runyon, 43, allegedly violated federal regulations by intentionally failing to perform compulsory evacuation drills, resulting in two of the counts against him. The other three were filed for falsification of records that reflected the drills completed.

If convicted, Runyon could serve up to 17 years in prison and pay a $US950,000 fine.

While Massey Energy did not respond to an ILN request for comment, it did confirm for the news service that Runyon remains employed by the producer.

Defence attorney Nick Preservati made a media statement maintaining Runyon’s innocence but declined further comment.

“We have spoken with the US Attorney's Office throughout the investigation,” he said.

The worker, the documentation outlined, was a foreman for one of two crews at Aracoma’s Alma No. 1 operation in southern West Virginia on January 19, 2006, the day a conveyor belt caught fire underground at the room and pillar mine. His crew, working further away from the fire, was able to escape.

However, two members of the second crew, Don Bragg, 33, and Ellery Elvis Hatfield, 47, died while trying to escape. According to investigative reports, the two somehow became separated from the rest of the group.

“Massey has an open investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Aracoma fire and will consider this and any other new information in its investigation," Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater told the AP.

In January, the mine pleaded guilty to 10 charges by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration and paid its assessed $2.5 million fine, the news service said. If US District Judge John Copenhaver accepts the producer’s plea, Aracoma will be sentenced in April.

According to MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere, the plea bargain agreement entails a $1.7 million civil penalty for federal violations. That deal is still under review by the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

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