Thursday, May 19, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-20-'11
- Assistant U.S. Labor Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main says he agrees with the independent investigative report by Davit McAteer, the independent investigator appointed by then West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to investigate the cause of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. The full report on the investigation of the blast on April 5, 2010 that left 29 workers at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine dead, two seriously hurt, and many thankful to have escaped was released Thursday. The report concluded it was a man-made disaster which could have been prevented. According to the report, the teeth of the massive coal shearer on the longwall machine in the Longwall 22 section cut into the sandstone mine roof, resulting in sparks igniting a pocket of methane, creating a fireball. The pocket of methane which created the initial fireball resulted from poor ventilation. The mine had been idled for Easter weekend two days before the blast. Testimony from several miners indicated water pumps in one section near a critical fan portal malfunctioned over the weekend and some areas of the mine had filled completely with water or "roofed out". The water buildup caused the fans to direct airflow improperly and failed to ventilate the methane gas away from the longwall face. The gas accumulated in the gob of old mine works behind the longwall section and leaked into the longwall face. The report says the ignition was not extinguished because of faulty sprinklers, and it spread quickly with the help of build up of coal dust and poor ventilation. Massey says all methane monitors were functional and yet the mine experienced a massive inundation of methane-rich natural gas that was not detected in time to prevent the explosion.
- West Virginia State Police say cases of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, were found inside Secret Pleasures in St. Albans Thursday night.
- Seventy-five year old David B. Daugherty, an administrative law judge in Huntington for 21 years, is the subject of a federal investigation for approving too many disability cases. In a system where only about 75 percent of the cases presented for disability claims are typically approved, Judge Daugherty has a nearly 100 percent approval. From 2005 to 2008, Judge Daugherty heard nearly 5000 cases and approved nearly all of them. According to the Wall Street Journal, this year, Judge Daugherty processed more cases than all but three judges nationwide.
- The trial of 49 year old Sherry Lou Smith and 25 year old Cassandra Smith, both of Elkins, and 23 year old Anthony Lambert of Montrose, three people charged with the February 16th shooting death of Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller in Elkins, has been delayed. The trial, originally set for May 31st, is now scheduled for September 6th. Hotsinpiller was killed while trying to serve a warrant on Charles Smith for federal drug charges. Smith also was killed, and two other deputy marshals were injured. Fawn Thomas, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office in the Northern District of West Virginia, says the case has been deemed "complex" by the court.
- Bluefield Police Chief J.W. Wilson says his department received a welfare check call around 7:00 A.M. Thursday at the Opera House Apartments. When officers arrived, they found an 18 year old girl dead from an apparent gunshot wound.
- Mason County Sheriff's Deputies say, when they went to serve a warrant on Leslie Rainey at a home in the 300 block of Long Ridge Road Thursday, they discovered about $10,000 worth or marijuana being grown in the home. Deputies arrested Leslie Rainey's father, 53 year old Ronald Rainey and charged him with cultivation of marijuana, his second offense. Leslie Rainey is wanted on burglary charges and additional charges are pending in connection with a meth ring.
- Matthew Jarrell, a man who claims he was a preacher in Terrell, Texas, is facing sexual assault charges in the Kanawha Valley. Jarrell was charged and arraigned Thursday after a woman claims Jarrell picked her up in Charleston Thursday morning when she needed a ride home. The woman says he took her to a secluded area off Martin's Branch Road near Sissonville and raped her. The woman says she got away when Jarrell's truck got stuck in the mud. Kanawha County Sheriff's Deputies say Jarrell told them he was a preacher in Texas, his family is moving to South Point, Ohio and he was traveling through the Kanawha Valley. Deputies say he did admit to having sex with the woman.
- Jason Edgar Parsons, 33, of Proctorville, Ohio, Alfredo Morales, 34, of Huntington and Brandon Jarrell Hairston, 23, of Huntington were arrested Wednesday night after Huntington Police were called to 7th Avenue to investigate a breaking and entering at the property of American Electric Power. Each is charged with felony breaking and entering after police say they were trying to steal copper. AEP officials say they will work with law enforcement on the prosecution of the individuals.
- Thursday, members of the West Virginia Lottery Commission took the group's monthly meeting on the road to Jefferson County. During the meeting, held at The Inn at Charles Town, Commission members gave West Virginia's casinos permission to use complimentary chips to try to bring in more gamblers. The chips are just the latest additions to the list of gambling credits the state is offering as gambling competition from other states continues to build.
- As part of a plan to reduce costs, West Virginia American Water is laying off 31 workers and moving six other positions. This follows a 4.4 percent rate increase approved by the state Public Service Commission, which is less than a third of the 15 percent originally requested. American Water officials say they tried to reduce operating costs, but, without additional funds, the company cannot afford to maintain its infrastructure. They say failure to replace infrastructure will result in more water main breaks and water outages. They say the company’s only choice is to reduce its workforce. The workforce reduction includes the elimination of certain management, administrative, salaried and hourly non-union and union positions. West Virginia American Water has 171,000 customers.
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