Coal Tattoo

The Kentucky Darby Disaster, May 20, 2006

While the focus this week has been on the McAteer team’s independent report on the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster,  it’s worth remembering that this is the 5th anniversary of the May 20, 2006, explosion that killed five miners at Kentucky Darby LLC’s Darby No. 1 Mine in Harlan County, Ky.

The Kentucky Darby Disaster claimed the lives of coal miners Amon Brock, Jimmy Lee, Roy Middleton, George Petra, and Paris Thomas. Injured in the disaster was miner Paul Ledford.

It’s worth noting that, despite the Sago Mine Disaster on Jan. 2, 2006, and the Aracoma Alma fire on Jan. 19 — claiming a total of 14 lives — Congress didn’t pass the MINER Act until after five more miners died at Kentucky Darby.

In its report on the disaster, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded:

An explosion occurred at approximately 1:00 a.m. on May 20, 2006, inby the A Left No. 3 Seal. The explosion resulted in the immediate deaths of two miners who were located at the seal. Three of four miners evacuating from the B Left Section succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning with smoke and soot inhalation.

The accident occurred because the operator did not observe basic mine safety practices and because critical safety standards were violated. Mine management failed to ensure that proper seal construction procedures were utilized in the building of the seals at the A Left Section. Mine management also failed to ensure that safe work procedures were used while employees attempted to make corrections to an improperly constructed seal. Furthermore, mine management failed to adequately train miners in escapeway routes and proper SCSR usage.

The company was fined $342,000 for six violations of safety standards. But not one cent has been paid.

Two years ago, MSHA officials sued the company to try to collect the penalties … but they’re still listed as not having been paid.