Kentucky Darby mine operators not paid fines for 2006 deadly blast

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

Nearly six years after a coal mine blast killed five men in Harlan County, the mining company's MSHA fines are still not paid.

Kentucky Darby still owes nearly $700,000 for safety violations and added interest.

Although nearly six years have passed since the blast at the Kentucky Darby LLC Mine Number One in Harlan County, the families of the five miners lost say the pain is still fresh.

"It still bothers my daughter. It bothers my grandkids. It bothers everybody," said Tilda Thomas, widow of Paris Thomas, Jr.

Records show MSHA issued Kentucky Darby 146 citations between February 2006 and November, 2008. With added interest, the fines add up to $695,303.99.

"Seven hundred and something thousand dollars, I mean, that's pittance compared to the lives of five men," said Tony Oppegard, an attorney who represented some of the widows of the miners killed in the blast.

In a January, 2010 federal court document, Kentucky Darby admitted liability for the unpaid fines. An MSHA spokesperson says they are still not paid.

"It's a disgrace and to the memory of our husbands that got killed because they were working for a company that should've took better care of them," said Thomas.

"I think the message it sends is a coal miner's life isn't worth anything," said Oppegard.

MSHA has turned the unpaid fines over to the U.S. Treasury Department for collection.

Meanwhile Thomas and Oppegard are upset one of the Darby operators is still allegedly mining coal at other mines.
"It seems as if in America, you can kill miners underground or maim miners and there's no accountability," said Oppegard.

MSHA officials have previously said mines with unpaid fines should be held accountable.

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