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 Post subject: Five Miners Die and One Escapes Kentucky Explosion
PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2006 3:55 pm 
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HOLMES MILL, Kentucky (May 20, 2006) - An explosion at the Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County in eastern Kentucky killed five miners Saturday, but a sixth miner was able to walk away from the blast site and emerged from the mine under his own power.

According to Ms. Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, the blast occurred between Midnight and 1:00 A.M. local time while a maintenance shift was on duty in the coal mine. The cause is yet to be determined. The underground mine, operated by Kentucky Darby LLC, is located about 250 miles southeast of Louisville in a mountainous area near the Virginia border.

The five dead miners were found by a rescue crew. Authorities identified the victims as Mr. Amon Brock, Mr. Jimmy Lee, Mr. Roy Middleton, Mr. George William Petra, and Mr. Paris Thomas, Jr., but their ages and hometowns were not divulged. The solitary survivor, identified as Mr. Paul Ledford, was taken to Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, where he was treated and released. Mr. Ledford was apparently closer to the mine's exit than his co-workers, which facilitated his escape.

Authorities are not certain how many workers were on duty during the event, but Ms. Louviere said mining operations were not taking place at the time of the blast.

Relatives of the miners gathered in the early morning hours at the nearby Cloverfork Missionary Baptist Church to await word about their loved ones. State and federal mine officials informed the family members of the deaths, said Pastor Michael Blair. "There's just a lot of heartbroken people," he added.

Local magistrate Chad Brock said the entire community will be shocked by the tragic loss of life. "There's not going to be a family that's not affected in some way," he said, "You either know them or you're kin to them."

Harlan County Judge-Executive Joseph Grieshop stated the accident "shakes up our county because coal mining is a way of life for our people."

In a statement, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts urged state and federal mine officials to "redouble their inspection and enforcement activities, starting now." Noting that this is the latest in a string of mine accidents to hit the industry since January, he stated , "This tragedy only compounds what has already been a horrific year in America's coal mines." Safety issues have been a major concern of lawmakers ever since two accidents in January killed 14 West Virginia coal miners, which led to a bill currently making its way through the Senate aimed at making coal mining safer. The legislation would require miners to have at least two hours worth of oxygen available instead of the current one-hour supply [Editor's note: The "Self-Rescuers" do not contain oxygen; they only contain a catalyst that converts carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into oxygen], and would require mine operators to store extra oxygen packs along escape routes. It would stipulate that mines must have two-way wireless communications and tracking systems in place within the next three years.

Demacratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a key writer of the bill, said the latest accident "underscores the need for swift action to improve the safety of our nation's coal mines." The Mine Safety and Health Administration recently implemented a temporary rule requiring coal operators to give miners extra oxygen, but the miners have been pressing Congress for a permanent fix.

Randal McCloy Jr., the only miner who survived the Sago mine explosion in West Virginia, has stated that at least four of the miners' air packs did not work, forcing the men to share, which potentially hastened the deaths of 11 of his fellow miners from carbon monoxide poisoning. A twelfth miner was killed in the blast.

Based on statistics provided by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, the five deaths in the accident on Saturday have raised the national death toll in coal mining accidents to 31 so far this year, with 10 of the deaths occurring in Kentucky mines.


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