Bodies recovered at JWR disaster site – News – Jim Walter Resources No. 5 mine near Brookwood, AL – Brief Article
Rescue teams recovered and identified all remaining 12 miners’ bodies left behind in the Jim Walter Resources (JWR) No. 5 mine near Brookwood, Ala., following a Sept. 23 disaster. Two explosions at the mine claimed 13 lives.
About 80 mine rescue workers from other JWR mines are working at the site, according to company Spokesperson Kyle Parks. “The investigation doesn’t have to be completed [for the mine to reopeon], but the rescue teams have to finish collecting evidence and determine the mine is safe,” Parks said.
In addition to company personnel, an investigation team from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is working at the mine.
MSHA Chief Dave Lauriski appointed Ray McKinney, manager of the agency’s district office in Norton, Va., to lead the investigation. McKinney, a 25-year MSHA veteran, has headed several other mine accident investigations and recovery operations. Seven other senior MSHA mine safety and engineering specialists and an attorney also will be on the investigation team. The investigation likely will take several months, MSHA said.
The investigation will start with three steps, according to MSHA. First, the team reviewed various mine record books, maps, fan charts, and other data to help reconstruct the events leading up to the explosions.
Second, the MSHA investigators gathered more than 300 samples of coal dust and rock dust to help determine the direction and extent of the explosions. MSHA Spokesperson Amy Louvriere said the samples would help determine the force of the explosions.
Third, the MSHA team interviewed miners and others with first-hand knowledge.
The No. 5 mine formerly employed about 300 miners and produced about 2 million tons of coal annually, according to Parks. About 50 of the mine’s workers have been reassigned to the company’s two other mines, also located near Brookwood.
Parks said his company would be able to make up the lost output from the No. 5 mine by increasing production at the two other mines, No. 4 and No. 7. The three mines formerly had approximately equivalent annual output.
According to Parks, the working hypothesis about how the accident occurred is that a roof fall in a small section of the mine hit a battery charger and set off sparks that ignited methane gas.
“Several miners have complained that we were not doing what we should have been doing, but our response is that our safety record is better than average,” Parks said. “When a problem comes up, we address it immediately.”
Parks said his company has not predicted when the mine will reopen. The recovery process will involve many complicated steps, according to MSHA, including pumping millions of gallons of water into the mine, sealing off mined-out areas, adjusting ventilation controls, and conducting gas tests.
JWR has started a fund to help the relatives of the miners who died in the accident, and will match private contributions to the fund. Checks made out to No.5 Mine Memorial Trust fund may be sent to JWR, P.O. Box 133, Brookwood, Ala., 35444.
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