Government Investigation Faults Massey Energy in West Virginia Mine Disaster


History of Neglect

Massey racked up more than 1,300 safety violations over the past five years, MSHA records show. Many were deemed willful or gross negligence.

And as recent as one month before the accident, records show inspectors cited the company for high levels of explosive dust, poor ventilation and flawed escape route plans at the Upper Big Branch facility.

"MSHA and state inspectors are also getting a lot of criticism over this and how things got so bad at that mine, because it didn't just happen overnight," said John Garretson, a retired federal mine inspector. "They've got to get stricter."

In a statement obtained by ABC News, Massey Energy disputes the findings of the report. "We disagree with Davitt's conclusion that this was an explosion fueled by coal dust," Massey Energy's General Counsel Shane Harvey old ABC News. "We believe that the explosion was caused by a massive inundation of methane-rich natural gas. Our experts feel confident that coal dust did not play an important role. Our experts continue to study the UBB explosion and our goal is to find answers and technologies that ultimately make mining safer."

Massey Energy is conducting its own investigation of the incident, but has yet to release its findings.

Many touched by the tragedy say they're not convinced regulators will take steps necessary to ensure it could never happen again.

"They just didn't take care of the mine right. They didn't ventilate it as they should. The inspectors were there too, and they didn't do anything," Davis said. "If they just keep up the laws they got, that's all they need. But they won't. It's all about money."

"Ultimately, the responsibility for the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine lies with the management of Massey Energy. The company broke faith with its workers by frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices while creating a public perception that its operations exceeded industry safety standards," the report stated.

It continued, "The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coalfields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk-taking. The April 5, 2010, explosion was not something that happened out of the blue, an event that could not have been anticipated or prevented. It was, to the contrary, a completely predictable result for a company that ignored basic safety standards and put too much faith in its own mythology."

ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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