A page from the fire boss book — a log of safety records — was removed at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners in Montcoal, W.Va., last month, according to a new court document surrounding a lawsuit filed by two of the victims’ families. The filing reveals that federal mine-safety officials reluctantly told family members of the missing page earlier this month.
After much prodding by miners’ families, MSHA admitted that the investigative team determined that one page of a fire boss book has been removed. (Exhibit A, MSHA Family Meeting, Liberty High School, May 5, 2010.) This disturbing example of mutilation of documentary evidence compels the conclusion that in order to assure evidence is fully produced, and produced unaltered, MSHA must issue subpeonas.
The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. notes that the document “does not indicate what date the page covered, or provide any additional details (though I’m told it was from sometime in October 2009).”
If he’s right about the date, then the episode likely has no direct correlation to the deadly blast. But it does raise some more questions about the corporate culture of Massey Energy.