A state report says an underground explosion that killed five Kentucky coal miners last spring was caused by a preventable methane leak. It was also attributed to the use of a cutting torch and other mine violations. An attorney representing the mine's coal boss had little reaction to the report, except to say it was incomplete and a more complete federal report is due in March.
The report released today says Methane leaked from what was termed a "poorly constructed" protective seal at Kentucky Darby LLC's number one mine in Harlan County. The seal was one of two at the mine that were supposed to keep combustible and poisonous gases underground, but neither met federal guidelines.
The gas was ignited by an open-flame torch used by two of the victims - mine foreman Amon Brock and maintenance worker Jimmy Lee, who were making repairs to metal straps used as underground roof supports. The straps intersected the top of the seal, leaving room for a leak and serving as heat conductors.
The report also said the 51-year-old Brock and 33-year-old Lee should not have been allowed to use a torch at the site of the repairs. They died at the scene while three others died trying to escape. A sixth miner was rescued.