Coal Tattoo

Probe goes on, but Crandall Canyon fades from view

As the 4th anniversary of the Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster approaches, my buddy Mike Gorrell at the Salt Lake Tribune has a story about the ongoing criminal investigation — and about how mine disasters easily fade from our minds. Mike reports:

Little has happened in the quest to determine more precisely what caused the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster, leaving many loved ones of the nine miners who died nearly four years ago wondering whether justice will ever be served.

Their doubts are fueled by the fact that three years have passed since the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released its investigatory report on the disaster, which began on Aug. 6, 2007.

The report blasted Murray Energy Corp., whose Utah subsidiary ran the mine, for recklessly disregarding safety in pursuing a mining plan “destined to fail” and fined the company $1.34 million for violations contributing directly to the massive Aug. 6 implosion that killed the first six miners (three rescuers died in a second implosion 10 days later).

But the company cannot even respond to MSHA’s allegations because the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah is quietly conducting a criminal investigation at the behest of MSHA and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.

That criminal probe halted all legal discovery into the substance of the citations, delaying an administrative process that usually gets closer to the truth as attorneys on both sides zero in on pertinent details. It’s a proceeding, though, that often relies heavily on human memory, something known to falter over time.

Especially interesting was this part of Mike’s story:

Lola Jensen, whose husband, Gary, was the MSHA inspector killed Aug. 16 in the ill-fated rescue operation, said she has felt abandoned, receiving only brief responses to her inquiries to the MSHA’s victim liaison about where matters stand.

“I get a one-line email back” from the victims’ liaison with the U.S. Attorney’s Office saying ‘the FBI is investigating,’ ” she said. “I don’t know whether to push it [because] we’re trying to move on with our lives. Is it my responsibility or someone else’s?”

Read the whole story here.