The proposed lawsuit amendment alleges that the longwall mining machine was being operated with missing sprayers on the longwall shearer, with inadequate water pressure on the shearer, with some sprayers "spiked" with nails, and without fully operational "boom sprayers." The amendment alleges that the combination of these factors created "an extremely dangerous circumstance considering the known presence of explosive methane gas at various times on the longwall face."
Shane Harvey, Massey's general counsel, said that the company has seen no evidence of any "spiked" water sprays, and believes that any missing water sprays could have been destroyed by the explosion.
Harvey said that the longwall machine's fire suppression system was found to be missing one of two key valves, and that closer examination of the other valve was needed.
"We don't think it had anything to do with the explosion," Harvey said. "But that's not to say it shouldn't have been in better condition than what we found it in."
Harvey said that the company's experts believe that the water sprays on the shearer were intended to control the level of coal dust miners inhale, and were not designed to help control sparks, fires or explosions.
"Whether they have some small side benefit, I've not found anyone who would say that," Harvey said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.