Upper Big Branch miner: ‘That place was a ticking time bomb’

May 24, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Clay Mullins, brother of Rex Mullins, listens as Stanley “Goose” Stewart, at right, Upper Big Branch miner, addresses the House Education and Labor Committee, during a hearing on the Upper Big Branch Mine Tragedy in Beckley, W.Va., at the Beckley-Raleigh Convention Center on Monday, May 24, 2010. Stewart along with other miners testified that production was valued over safety. (AP Photo/Jon C. Hancock)

Gazette readers have heard from Stanley “Goose” Stewart before, in this story by my buddy Davin White, which was published just two days after the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion.

Stewart, who narrowly escaped the April 5 disaster, had much more to say this morning when he testified at the House Education and Labor Committee’s field hearing on the mine disaster.

Among other things:

… Last July, I told my wife, Mindi, “If anything happens to me, get a lawyer and sue the blankety blank out of them. That place is a ticking time bomb.”

Stewart said the mine “constantly” had low flows of fresh air, but that the company never really fixed its ventilation problems:

Mine management never fully addressed the air problem when it would be shut down by inspectors. They would fix it just good enough to get us to load coal again, but then it would be back to business as usual.

And Stewart said that the company last year stripped miners at Upper Big Branch of their summer vacations after the operation did not meet a production quota.

We’ve got an early edition of our news story on the hearings online now here.

There’s also coverage online from National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, the Charleston Daily Mail, the Beckley Register-Herald, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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