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 Post subject: No decision after hearing in Schuylkill coal mine blast
PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:04 pm 
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Location: From Schuylkill County, PA living in Phoenix, AZ
No decision after hearing in Schuylkill coal mine blast

By John Moser
The Morning Call
February 3, 2009

An initial state investigation of a 2004 Schuylkill County coal mine explosion found no evidence it was caused by a methane buildup or the mine owners' malfeasance, an official testified today.

It was only after a second blast on Oct. 23, 2006, at R&D Coal Co.'s Buck Mountain mine in Tremont that killed miner Dale Reightler, 43, of Donaldson that the state Department of Environmental Protection reopened the earlier probe and ruled it was caused by "suspected methane," Steven R. Geist, a DEP underground anthracite inspector, said.

Geist testified at a county court hearing to determine whether there's enough evidence to uphold involuntary manslaughter and other charges against mine foreman Steven Zimmerman, 33, of Pine Grove in both of the explosions.

Zimmerman and two others – his father and company owner David Zimmerman, 53, also of Pine Grove, and miner Jeffrey Klinger of Tremont – were charged in April 2008 in Pennsylvania's first criminal charges in a mine fatality.

After hearing an hour of testimony, Judge Charles Miller asked attorneys to file written briefs quickly and said he hopes to rule in the next two weeks. A trial for the men is slated to start March, with jury selection Feb. 24.

A similar hearing on evidence against David Zimmerman and Klinger was held before Judge Jacqueline L. Russell in October, but she has not ruled.

The charges came after a state grand jury found that R&D Coal had a history of incidents, ignored safety rules and even canceled a 911 call after the 2004 blast and sent injured miners -- one with a broken leg -- to clean up.

Moreover, they altered the blast site to hide problems before inspectors arrived and ordered workers to keep mum, miners testified before the grand jury. But Geist testified today he found no methane when he went into the mine a day after the 2004 blast and found an explosive that miners laid undetonated, and ruled the blast's cause "undetermined."

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:19 am 
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I thought I read somewhere that they incurred a decent amount of fines from that?
Or am I thinking of another incident?

~S


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:42 am 
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Location: From Schuylkill County, PA living in Phoenix, AZ
Mine foreman seeks dismissal of charges in fatal blast case

BY PETER E. BORTNER
POTTSVILLE REPUBLICAN & HERALD
February 4, 2009

A Schuylkill County judge said Tuesday that he will decide this month whether the foreman of the coal mine in which a Donaldson man died in an October 2006 explosion must stand trial in March in connection with his death.

Steven D. Zimmerman, 33, of Pine Grove, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in connection with the death of Dale Reightler, 43, asked Judge Charles M. Miller to dismiss all charges against him, alleging the evidence was insufficient.

At the end of a one-hour hearing, during which prosecutors presented one witness and transcripts from two previous hearings, Miller, who said his great-grandfather was a miner, said he will decide within two weeks whether to dismiss the charges, which also include causing a catastrophe, risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person, obstructing the administration of law, conspiracy and eight violations of the state Anthracite Coal Mine Act.

The state attorney general’s office has charged Steven Zimmerman, his father, David Zimmerman, and Jeffrey Klinger with numerous crimes stemming from the Oct. 23, 2006, blast at R&D Coal Co.’s Buck Mountain Mine in Tremont Township.

Prosecutors allege David Zimmerman, the mine owner and operator, and his son allowed dangerous conditions to exist in the mine and Klinger, a miner, failed to follow proper safety precautions before detonating the fatal explosion.

All three are scheduled to be tried together during the March criminal court term, although David Zimmerman and Klinger have requests pending before Judge Jacqueline L. Russell to have charges against them dismissed. It has not been determined what judge will preside over the trial.

David Zimmerman is charged with involuntary manslaughter, causing or risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person, obstructing the administration of law, conspiracy, tampering with evidence and violations of the state Anthracite Coal Mine Act. Klinger is charged with involuntary manslaughter, causing or risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person and violations of the state Anthracite Coal Mine Act.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Steven R. Geist, a mine inspector with the state Department of Environmental Protection, testified exclusively about the Dec. 1, 2004, explosion at the same mine, a blast that prosecutors now say was caused by methane — the same cause that lay behind the blast that killed Reightler.

Steven Zimmerman told him that he did not know what caused the 2004 explosion, and the accident report said the cause of that blast was not known, Geist testified.

“He stated that they placed a mudcap (a method of exploding material in a mine) at the end of the chute,â€

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:22 pm 
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Go to work, go to jail. Only in America. Im sure they feel bad enough about the situation. To push them even farther ? Working in factories all my life ( nothing compared to mining I know) But Ive seen my share of accidents. And some of the time. It was just a guy standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:58 pm 
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Location: Central Ohio
Totally agree , couldn't have said it better

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:02 pm 
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is this really the first time something like this has been a criminal case?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:26 pm 
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Let's see. Add a whole bunch of new and poorly written/understood regs at the people. Then confuse the issue with what still are 'accidents'. Anything I managed to see on this series of events still don't amount to 'criminal' events. ---There may be past occurences but does this mean that it is therefore a pattern of anything approaching 'criminality'?

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:56 pm 
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Location: NEPA
MSHA's enforcement posture has changed dramaticaly in the last few years, not only here in the Anthracite but everywhere. Because MSHA has gotten as bad as they have around here the state in some cases has made some changes for the worse. This case is far from over. If you talk to most of the guys in the Industry some really bad calls were made and now there coming out in court, not only on the miners part but also on the state and federal levels.

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