WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - The former superintendent
of the West Virginia mine where 29 workers died in a 2010
explosion pleaded guilty on Thursday to a federal conspiracy charge that he tipped off employees to safety inspections.
Gary May, 43, is the most senior executive with Massey Energy to face criminal charges in the Upper Big Branch blast,
the worst U.S. mine accident in four decades.
May, of Bloomingrose, West Virginia, pleaded guilty to a
felony conspiracy charge of impeding Mine Safety and Health
Administration (MSHA) enforcement efforts between February 2008
and April, 5, 2010, when the explosion took place, the Justice Department said in a statement.
"I'm pleased that Mr. May is cooperating with our
investigation," Booth Goodwin, the U.S. attorney for West
Virginia's Southern District, said in the statement.
May warned workers of MSHA inspections and admitted to
concealing health and safety violations when he knew inspections
were nearing, the statement said.
May said he ordered a mine examination book to be falsified.
He also told miners to rewire the methane gas detector on a
piece of mine equipment so the equipment could run illegally, it
May faces up to five years' in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 9.
The head of security at Upper Big Branch was charged last
year with impeding investigators and lying to them. A former
foreman also has been accused of lying to investigators.
Massey has been bought by Alpha Natural Resources Inc. Alpha
agreed in December to pay $1.5 million to each of the families
of the 29 miners who died as part of a $209 million settlement.
The case is USA v Gary May, U.S. District Court, Southern
District of West Virginia, no. 12-cr-00050.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson)
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