April 13th, 2010
05:43 PM ET

Ex-safety chief to lead W. Virginia mine probe

West Virginia's governor Tuesday named a former head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to lead a state probe into last week's coal mine explosion that left 29 miners dead.

Davitt McAteer has overseen investigations into two previous mine accidents, the Sago disaster that killed 12 miners in 2006 and the fire at the Aracoma Alma No. 2 mine that left two workers dead. The West Virginia native served as the Clinton administration's assistant labor secretary for mine safety in the 1990s and is currently vice president of Wheeling Jesuit University.

"Davitt has the experience and knowledge to lead what will be a complex and extensive investigation into this horrible accident," Gov. Joe Manchin said in a statement announcing McAteer's appointment. "We made tremendous progress in 2006 immediately following the Sago and Aracoma accidents, and I fully expect that we will learn even more from this and make dramatic changes to protect our miners."

The last bodies were recovered early Tuesday from the Upper Big Branch mine, the scene of the fatal explosion April 5. McAteer was critical of the mine's owner, Virginia-based Massey Energy, in the days following the blast, calling its safety record "checkered," but Massey says its procedures are among the best in the industry.

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Filed under: West Virginia
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Steve

    As the former head of MSHA will he find fault with them if needed? I think not. Too many skeletons in the closet that he knows about.

    April 13, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ken Waters

    I read an account of the Massey company's fines and violations over the last few years as I recall. It seemed appalling. I was wondering how these violations and performance record will influence anything going forward as we mourn this loss of life and devastation of families. Maybe you can shed a little light on this.

    I did read an editorial on the dilemma of shutting down violators when it creates unemployment. That almost suggests that the employers have leverage!!!


    April 14, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |