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Massey chief: Miners knew gas was present before explosion

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Massey Energy chief Don Blankenship says there’s evidence some victims knew methane gas was pouring into the Upper Big Branch mine before the explosion that killed 29 miners.

Blankenship says some of the miners cut off electricity to the cutting head of the main mining machine at the Raleigh County operation. And he says they locked the machine’s coal conveyer and apparently were trying to run for safety when they died.

The April 5 explosion is the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine in 40 years and is the subject of criminal and civil investigations.

The information supports Massey’s theory that so much methane flooded the mine so fast that it overwhelmed safeguards, such as ventilation equipment that the Virginia-based company argues was weakened by federal regulators.

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