Family Of Fallen Miners Calling For More Changes

By: Jon Sonnheim Email
By: Jon Sonnheim Email

Just a day after federal officials released the Darby Mine report, the family members of several miners killed on the job are calling for changes in the way investigators handle mine accidents. Federal officials say they're listening to the widows' suggestions.

Just Thursday night, federal officials were in Harlan County to release the cause of the Darby explosion that killed five miners last May. Investigators say a cutting torch caused a methane explosion in the mine, and say the mine operator showed reckless disregard for safety. Now, nearly one year later, many of the miners' family members are still hoping to make a change in the industry.

If you believe not much can change over 11 months, ask the families of five Darby miners or simply ask four year old Seth Lee.

"What happened to daddy, he boomed, up to heaven," Seth said.

The past 11 months saw 5 families face the unthinkable, saw widows locked out of investigator's hearings on the accident, and even saw widows take their fight all the way to Congress. Now 11 months later, many of these families say they're ready to move on.

"I'm hoping that because of the way we were treated, this doesn't happen to more families," said Melissa Lee.

"We're treating the families the way I'd want my family to be treated," said Richard Stickler with MSHA.

That's why MSHA officials say they have an open ear to the widow’s suggestions. Suggestions like allowing federal investigators subpoena power during investigations and allowing family representatives to attend accident meetings.

"I just said I love you God and I want to bring my daddy back, but he didn't," Seth said.

"For their children, it never goes away. For their families it never goes away. May get a little easier, but never go away," said Tammy Charles whose husband was killed in a mine accident in 1999.

So while the memories of these accidents may stay with these families, they're trying to make sure that pain stops right there.

On a positive note, just after the meeting with federal officials Friday, several of the miner's widows said they did celebrate the recent passage of Kentucky mine safety legislation saying they can see they are making a difference.

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