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Federal officials probing 2 deaths at West Virginia coal mine

Employer safety practices and adherence to safety regulations can mean the difference between life and death for workers in dangerous occupations. Coal miners work in hazardous environments every day where mine collapses, explosions and equipment failures can cause catastrophic injuries. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration recorded 324 workers' deaths in coal mines nationwide since 2003, with 126 deaths – over 39 percent of all fatalities -- in West Virginia.

Two coal miners died recently, after becoming trapped in a Boone County mine owned by Brody Mining LLC. MSHA officials reported the deaths without providing detailed information about the accident; an investigation is underway. The victims were two men, ages 46 and 48.

Brody Mine No. 1, where the workers died, has a history of safety violations. Seven months ago, federal mine inspectors accused the mine owners of repeatedly failing to meet minimum safety standards. The mine was shut down temporarily after the company was cited for "a pattern of violations."

Twenty-nine West Virginia miners died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010. The preliminary report filed by MSHA to the U.S. Department of Labor acknowledged the deaths were due to a "massive" explosion, about the same time carbon monoxide alarms were triggered within the Performance Coal Company mine.

Comparisons were made between the blast at Upper Big Branch and other similar mine explosions. The report stressed disasters like this are avoidable when mine operators take adequate safety measures. The Performance Coal Company mine, controlled by Massey Energy, had been cited for hundreds of safety violations in 2009 and 2010 and fined more than $1 million by federal regulators; the mine's record for serious repeat violations exceeded the national average by almost 19 times.

Attorneys can assist victims of coal mining injuries and their families in receiving full benefits and compensation from insurance or third-parties responsible for workplace accidents.

Source: CNN, "2 W. Virginia coal miners killed" Brian Todd and John Newsome, May. 13, 2014

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