Former Upper Big Branch Superintendent Charged With Felony Conspiracy

by Erica Peterson on February 22, 2012

Federal charges have been filed against the former superintendent of Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. Gary May was charged with felony conspiracy today in West Virginia.

Gary May started working at the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2008. He was a superintendent there in April 2010, when an explosion tore through the mine, killing 29 workers.

According to the charges filed in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors say May and possibly others conspired against the country’s mine safety laws. They allege May gave advance notice of federal mine inspections to miners and covered up mine safety violations. They also accuse him of tampering with methane detectors, falsifying records and misleading federal investigators as to the amount of respirable dust in the mine.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says charges against other Massey employees could be in store.

“Today’s charge is a significant step in the investigation of events at the Upper Big Branch Mine,” Goodwin said. “However, our investigation of those events remains ongoing.”

May is the third Massey official to be charged in connection with the explosion. A former miner was charged for faking a forman’s license and performing safety inspections. Former security chief Hughie Stover is set to be sentenced next week, and Goodwin is asking for the maximum 25 year prison sentence.

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