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Investigators Seize Company Records in Mine Explosion Probe

October 8, 1989

WHEATCROFT, Ky. (AP) _ State and federal investigators seized a mine company’s log books, memorandums and computer printouts in their probe of a coal mine explosion that killed 10 miners last month.

Agents of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, FBI, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Kentucky State Police acted Friday and Saturday on search warrants issued by a judge for Pyro Mining Co.

Harvey Fenster, a spokesman for Pyro Mining, said the company already had turned over most - but not all - records sought by investigators. He said the company would have turned over the remainer if investigators had gone through proper channels.

Michael Finnie, a special investigator for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said in a sworn statement submitted to a court Friday that workers removed a cinder-block barrier inside the western Kentucky mine about 15 minutes before the Sept. 13 explosion.

That action disrupted air currents, creating dangerous levels of explosive methane, Finnie said.

Pyro Mining said Saturday in a statement that the company did not violate federal mine-safety laws by making a ventilation change in the mine the day of the explosion. The company did not elaborate.

Last month Ron Siler, president of Costain Coal Inc., parent to Pyro Mining, said a barrier was indeed taken down the morning of the explosion, but after the fatal blast, not 15 minutes before. And he contended that its removal could not have been a factor, even if it came before the accident.

The company also denied Finnie’s allegation that employees apparently tore pages out of mine record books before giving the books to federal officials the day of the explosion.

Investigators have said the explosion occurred after a spark - possibly from a welder’s torch or electrical equipment - ignited a dangerously high concentration of methane.

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