Friday, December 15, 2006

WV Mine Safety Chief "A Disaster"

Anyone want to take bets on how long Ron Wooten, director of the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, will last in his job after his pitiful performance the other day when he "dumped" the state's report on the Sago mine disaster on the laps of the families of the miners killed?
Frustrated by a cursory briefing and a confusing report, families of the miners killed in the Sago Mine disaster are focusing their anger on Gov. Joe Manchin and his pick to run the state mine safety office, longtime CONSOL Energy official Ron Wooten.

“Our governor has to be totally embarrassed for appointing him to this position,” said Pam Campbell, the sister-in-law of Sago miner Marty Bennett.

Wooten, director of the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, has not returned repeated phone calls. A spokeswoman said he would not discuss the matter publicly until after he meets again with Sago families.

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Lara Ramsburg, Manchin’s communications director, said the governor was “disappointed” with the handling of Monday’s meeting. Ramsburg added, “the governor has confidence in all of our appointees, including Mr. Wooten.”

Several versions of the state’s Sago report have been circulated since Monday, when Manchin and state investigators were set to release it to Sago families and the public.
Families became upset when Wooten simply handed them copies of the report and referred them to it for answers to their questions.

During the private meeting, Manchin stepped in and told Wooten he had expected a more detailed briefing, similar to one given a month earlier to the widows of two miners killed in the Aracoma Mine fire. Administration officials promised the families a better briefing, and then canceled an afternoon news conference, but not before copies of the report leaked out and were splashed all over the news.

Campbell said that Monday’s meeting “was a disaster.”
And although the reports seems to have concluded that the explosion was ignited by lightning, it had trouble explaining how the electrical charge traveled over a mile into the mine.