W. Va. mine ex-security chief convicted in deadly disaster case

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 26, 2011 9:53 PM
W. Va. mine ex-security chief convicted in deadly disaster case

By Steven Allen Adams

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (Reuters) - The former security chief at a mine where 29 miners died last year was convicted of two felonies on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, of Clear Fork, West Virginia, was convicted by a federal jury of making false statements to federal agents and obstructing a federal investigation.

Stover was charged in February with giving false statements to FBI and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) investigators, and with obstructing a federal investigation into the cause of the Upper Big Branch disaster.

An explosion at the mine, owned by the now-defunct Massey Energy, killed 29 miners in April 2010.

During the investigation Stover allegedly told FBI and MSHA investigators that mine security guards did not warn mine personnel when MSHA inspectors were on their way to the mine.

Investigators discovered that Stover himself warned mine personnel when inspectors were on their way. Stover also allegedly instructed another person to destroy thousands of Massey Energy documents related to the UBB mine.

"Today's verdict sends a clear message that when a person obstructs an investigation, especially an investigation as important as this one, there will be consequences," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

Sentencing for Stover will take place February 29, 2012, in Beckley, West Virginia.

Another former Massey employee, Thomas Harrah, pleaded guilty in April to making false statements on documents and making false statements to FBI and MSHA investigators after passing himself off as a mine foreman, though he failed the foreman's exam. Both are felonies.

Massey was bought by Alpha Natural Resources earlier this year. Three reports, including a preliminary report by MSHA and a report released on Tuesday by the United Mine Workers of America blame Massey for disaster by allowing unsafe conditions in the mine.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)