At the time Blankenship said the company was committed to insuring safe practices were not overshadowed by the company's quest for profitability.
An investigation into the Aracoma fire conducted by McAteer at the request of West Virginia officials uncovered internal company memos that Blankenship sent to all his deep mine superintendents.
"If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal … you need to ignore them and run coal," the Oct. 19, 2005 document states. "This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that coal pays the bills."
Two weeks later, Blankenship wrote a second memo to explain that the first one should not be misconstrued. "Some of you may have interpreted that memo to imply that safety and S-1 [a Massey Energy safety program] are secondary," he wrote. "I would question the membership [sic] of anyone who thought that I consider safety to be a secondary responsibility. The point is that each of you is responsible for coal producing sections, and our goal is to keep them running coal. If you have construction jobs at your mine that need to be done to keep it safe or productive, make every effort to do those jobs without taking members and equipment from the coal producing sections that pay the bills."
Bruce Stanley, the lawyer for two women who lost husbands at the Aracoma mine, said the message from Blankenship was clear: "My experience with Don Blankenship has been that he's an accountant, bottom-line guy and his emphasis is on the bottom line."