Saturday, November 11, 2006

Three Get Prison Time for Lying to MSHA

Three officials of a small auger coal mine in Illinois got prison sentences for lying to MSHA investigators. This is not routine; going to prison over mine safety is not unknown, but is rare. We've mainly seen similar sentences in a few major disasters and in systematic mine safety and health related frauds.

BENTON, Ill. - A man convicted along with his son of lying to government investigators about a 2003 death at a southern Illinois coal mine was ordered Thursday to spend three years in federal prison and pay $10,000 in fines. Lester Erb Jr., 49, formerly of Harrisburg, also was sentenced to two years of supervised release.

In June, a U.S District Court jury convicted Erb and his son, Lester Erb III, 29, of lying to U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators after the death of Adam Scott at a surface mine in Gallatin County. A federal judge sentenced Lester Erb III in September to three months in prison, $500 in fines and two years of supervised release.....

Authorities say Adam Scott, 20, was driving a Midwest Auger dump truck loaded with 14 tons of coal up a steep slope at the mine when the vehicle either lost traction or stalled and began rolling backward. Scott apparently tried to jump for safety from the vehicle but was killed when the truck overturned onto him, pinning him and burying him under the payload of black ore.


Investigators later blamed the accident on the truck's unsafe operating condition, ruling that the truck's brakes were incapable of stopping the loaded truck on the grade. Those investigators also said a hole in the brake air line was patched with electrical tape....

Another defendant, Larry Bunner, of Cannelton, Ind., was sentenced in April to six months in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release for lying to investigators of Scott's death.


MSHA cited three (d) violations in its investigation, all related to the condition of the truck, which also had no seat belt. The agency proposed civil penalties totaling $93,000, which were under appeal.

Mine operator Midwest Auger Co. would auger a highwall after another mine had already got all the coal they could out of it by normal strip mining, according to MSHA's investigation report. The company had worked the site for about a year and had two operations at the time of the accident, both now abandoned.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that truck. It was death trap. The mine worked 24 hours a day, and the truck didn't have working headlamps. The air brakes leaked and would lose pressure after only a few seconds. The driver's side door didn't even have latch, let alone a lock. The door was "fixed" by bolting on a screen door sliding latch to keep the door shut. That latch was broken at the time of the accident. Drivers had to hold the door shut with one hand, and drive and shift with the other.

They got that kid killed for greed. It's a disappointment that they got off so light.

1:05 AM  

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