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 Post subject: Miner gets probation in fatal explosion case
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:41 am 
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Location: From Schuylkill County, PA living in Phoenix, AZ
Miner gets probation in fatal explosion case

BY DUSTIN PANGONIS
POTTSVILLE REPUBLICAN & HERALD
September 17, 2009

A Tremont man will serve 60 days of probation after pleading guilty Wednesday to two charges in connection with a 2006 mine explosion that claimed the life of a coal miner.

Jeffrey T. Klinger, 43, of 2 W. Laurel St., was scheduled for a non-jury trial before Judge Jacqueline L. Russell on three violations of the Anthracite Coal Mine Act, but instead reached an agreement with the commonwealth to plead guilty to two of the charges and have the third dismissed.

Klinger was one of three people charged in connection with an Oct. 23, 2006, explosion at R&D Coal Co., Tremont Township, in which Dale Reightler, 43, of Donaldson, was killed.

"I'm sorry for what happened," Klinger said. "I worked next to him every day. We were a team, and we watched each other's back."

Klinger pleaded guilty to blasting coal or rock without first obtaining a certificate to mine, as well as storing explosives or detonators in the direct line of blasting, both in violation of the mine act.

The alleged violation of a mine act provision - that it is unlawful to employ non-certified miners - was dismissed. Glenn A. Parno, chief deputy with the state Attorney General's office, said the charge was redundant with the uncertified blasting charge.

Klinger was sentenced to 30 days probation on each of the charges. The maximum sentence on each charge is a $200 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

Several members of Reightler's family stormed out of the courtroom after Russell announced her sentencing.

"That's all my brother's life was worth: 60 days of probation," Dave Reightler, Dale's brother, said outside the courthouse.

The commonwealth accepted an open guilty plea, meaning the prosecution made no sentencing recommendation and deferred to the judge's discretion.

Russell said she followed sentencing guidelines, and noted Klinger had no prior record. Russell asked Klinger about his work situation and current financial obligations, including lawyers' fees, and said he would likely be unable to pay a fine now or in the immediate future.

Klinger had previously faced more serious charges: involuntary manslaughter, causing or risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person and four additional violations of the Anthracite Coal Mine Act.

Russell dismissed those charges in February and Magisterial District Judge Carol A. Pankake dismissed them a second time after Parno re-filed them.

More serious charges remain against the owner of the mine, David Zimmerman, 53, and his son, Steven Zimmerman, 34, both of Pine Grove, including involuntary manslaughter charges for both.

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