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DOL News Release No. 01-437
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Friday, November 16, 2001

News Release

Accident Investigation Team to Visit Presumed Site of Mine Explosion

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced today that federal officials investigating the Sept. 23rd accident at the Jim Walter #5 mine in Brookwood will make their first visit tomorrow to the site where they believe the initial explosion occurred.

"This will be the first opportunity for us to examine the area and equipment on Section Four, the part of the mine where we believe the explosion started," said Ray McKinney, MSHA's team leader in the investigation. "We will have electrical specialists conduct thorough inspections of all equipment, cables and electrical components. We also have technical experts who will evaluate the roof conditions where the roof fall occurred."

Investigators will map Section Four to locate any evidence that might indicate the direction of forces from the explosion and the extent of the flame path. They also will collect samples to determine combustible content within the area.

"This is a critical step for our investigation team," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, from his office at MSHA's headquarters in Arlington, Va. "The data they collect will enable them to better reconstruct the chain of events leading up to the explosion and, consequently, determine the actual cause of the accident."

Lauriski also extended condolences for the families of the miners and praise for the recovery teams. "Our goal was to return these men to their loved ones, and the heroic and selfless efforts of the mine rescue teams have made that possible," he said.

Thirteen miners died in the Sept. 23rd blast. Since the accident, mine rescue teams worked in consecutive shifts to locate and recover 12 bodies that remained underground. As of last weekend, all of the bodies had been recovered.