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DOL News Release No. 01-358
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Monday, October 15, 2001

News Release

Mine Safety Head Discusses Recovery Efforts at Jim Walter #5
Introduces Lead Investigator in Accident

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave Lauriski held a news media update today at the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA's) Birmingham, Ala., district office regarding the ongoing recovery efforts and investigation into two explosions Sept. 23 at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 Mine near Brookwood. Thirteen miners died in the blasts.

Since the day of the explosions, MSHA personnel have maintained an ongoing presence at the mine site. They've set up a command center to monitor ongoing conditions and accompany mine rescue teams underground in their efforts to recover Jim Walter #5.

"First and foremost, our immediate goal is to recover the bodies of the 12 men who remain inside the mine," said Lauriski.

Lauriski discussed the complicated steps the rescue teams have undertaken in their efforts to reach the victims, including pumping millions of gallons of water into the mine, sealing off mined-out areas, adjusting ventilation controls and conducting gas tests. "At every step of the way," he emphasized, "the safety of these teams has been our primary consideration."

Lauriski also discussed the three most important phases of the investigation, which are ongoing:

MSHA's accident investigation team, assembled by Lauriski just days after the explosion occurred, has been steadily gathering background information, taking rock dust samples and preparing maps of the recovered area in their efforts to determine the cause of the accident. Ray McKinney, head of the nine-member team, is a 25-year veteran of MSHA and has headed up a number of other mine accident investigations and recovery operations.