After the most deadly explosion in 40 years, the man who was the CEO at the time of the accident that claimed 29 lives is set to stand trial for his role in the matter.
Officials say that former Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship faces a criminal trial Thursday on the charges that he knowingly conspired to lie to financial regulators concerning the safety practices at the site of the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. If convicted, he will join the very small number of corporate CEO’s to face prison time.
It was in April of 2010 when an underground explosion rocked Massey’s former Upper Big Branch Mine took the lives of 29 workers who were on the job.
Prosecutors for the federal government are pointing to memos and testimony that they claim clearly show that Blankenship was intimately involved in every aspect of mining operations at Massey. Federal authorities assert that Blankenship’s focus for the mines was far more about financial profits than about worker safety. Blankenship was so closely involved that he received updates on mining production at the Upper Big Branch Mine as often as every 30 minutes.
Documents submitted by the government reveal that four separate investigations indicate that and worn cutting equipment were responsible for having created a spark that ignited accumulated coal dust and methane gas in the mine. Broken and clogged water sprayers in the mine would have exacerbated the problem by turning a minor flare into an inferno.
Blankenship and his counsel disagree with the government’s case and allege that it was natural gas rather than coal dust and methane that caused the deadly explosion in 2010.
Federal authorities allege that Blankenship had a habit of “systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts” to commit safety and health violations. Blankenship also had a system in place in order to alert employees in underground settings when federal mine and safety inspectors were on the site. This would allow them to cover up these issues at Big Branch. The government also accuses Blankenship of lying to federal authorities about Massey’s safety procedures.
If convicted, Blankenship could be facing up to 30 years in prison.
Howell & Christmas have more than 30 years of combined legal experience representing people who have been seriously injured in the Charleston area. We have the dedication and knowledge to help you recover losses suffered as the result of someone else’s negligence and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
If you have been injured on the job or lost a loved one in an on the job accident, you may be entitled to compensation. We can help you recover costs incurred from medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering and other costs that the accident has caused you. Call us today for a free consultation.