The top safety officer for Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners died in an explosion on April 5, has invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and won’t be interviewed by those investigating the disaster.
Elizabeth Chamberlin, Massey’s vice president for safety, and five other company officials have refused to answer questions about the explosion, according to The Charleston Gazette.
Up to five additional Massey managers may have also refused to testify, but the state hasn’t confirmed that.
A letter from Chamberlin to the state of West Virginia alleges that the federal mine safety agency, MSHA, is using its investigation to “divert attention and blame from itself and onto others” and charges that West Virginia’s independent investigation team have “bullied and abused” some witnesses.
Investigators deny the charges.
Preliminary information shows that methane and coal dust played a role in the fatal explosion.
Just days after the Gazette story appeared, West Virginia’s mine safety chief resigned.
Ron Wooten led the Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training since August 2006. The resignation also came one day after West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) won a special election to fill the remaining two years of Sen. Robert Byrd’s term.
Do you think Massey’s safety chief and other managers should be required to submit to interviews involving the Upper Big Branch disaster? Let us know in the Comments Box below.