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Prosecution Calls Another UBB Miner to Testify, Defense Prepares to Cross

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Jessica Lilly

Prosecutors continued to call witnesses on the tenth day of the trial against former Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship. Prosecutor Steve Ruby picked back up with questioning of Mine Safety and Health inspector Keith McElroy. McElroy was one of the investigators of the Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion that killed 29 men.

McElroy from Kentucky

McElroy testified that he observed several water sprays on mining equipment that were “stopped up” or operating at a slow flow.

Blankenship’s attorney Jim Walls began his cross examination with questions about McElroy’s education, training and background. Walls interrupted the witness frequently and made comments about McElroy's home state. Walls said Kentucky is the only place he has found “moonshine and frog legs”. Walls proceeded to ask questions about “bits” on the continuous mining machine.

Ruby pointed out that the prosecution was asking about sprayers, not bits.

 

After a brief recess the prosecution called former fireboss, Scott Halstead. A retired coal miner, Halstead worked for 35 years in mines. Halstead confirmed his signature on several reports that pointed out frequent needs for rock dusting, cleaning and more.

 

Halstead, a "part 90" miner

 

Halstead said he was what’s called a “part 90” miner, which is a miner diagnosed with black lung who can request to be put in an area of the mine that’s less dusty.

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Credit Jessica Lilly
Former UBB miner, Scott Halstead stopped in front of the federal courthouse in Charleston, W.Va. after the 10th day of trial.

In 2010, the Mine Safety and Health Administration required miners to wear to respirable dust pump that measured the amount of dust a miner was exposed to.

Halstead testified that while wearing the pump there were times that a safety director would make him stand in “fresh air” while the director dusted.

Halstead said he didn’t believe this gave an accurate reading of the amount of dust he was exposed to.

“I wasn’t doing my normal duties,” Halstead said.

 

The defense prepares for cross examination, expected on Thursday.

 

Prosecution said they could wrap up early next week with no guarantees.

 

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break mine safety laws and lying to financial regulators about safety practices at mines such as the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, which exploded in 2010, killing 29 miners.

 

Blankenship and his attorney's are claiming innocence.

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