Miner charged after evidence shows he allegedly smoked in mine

February 7, 2013
Donald D. Adams

A former Greene County miner was charged Thursday with risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person and criminal violations of the Bituminous Coal Mine Act following allegations that he smoked a cigarette in a mine Aug. 23.

State Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane identified the defendant as Donald Adams Jr., 51, 120 Lee Ave., Spraggs. Adams held two bituminous coal mining certifications from the commonwealth and worked at Emerald Mine, an underground bituminous coal mine in Franklin Township, Greene County.

According to the criminal complaint, miners working underground in Emerald Mine smelled heavy cigarette smoke toward the end of one of their shifts and discovered a green water bottle and a burned cigarette near the air lock doors.

The charges state that after collecting the water bottle and the cigarette, the workers exited the air lock doors, immediately smelled cigarette smoke and found Adams seated in the vicinity.

Kane said about 117 miners were working in Emerald Mine during Adams’ shift and methane gas was present in the mine.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Richard M. Bosco, a member of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Environmental Crimes Section with the attorney general’s office, learned that on Aug. 23, four miners – Kevin Miller, Travis Tustin, Fred Borcheck and Adams – were assigned to enter the mine and drag 3-inch aluminum pipes from one room to an area that contains an entrance and air corridor.

On Nov. 19, Bosco interviewed Tustin and Borcheck, who said during their shift with Miller and Adams, Adams separated himself from the rest of them and worked either ahead or behind them. Near the end of their shift, Tustin and Borcheck said they were near the air lock doors where they noticed a green water bottle next to a burned cigarette. Tustin collected the water bottle and put the burned cigarette into his shirt pocket to give to Miller, the acting mine foreman.

Bosco said he was informed Tustin asked Adams whether the water bottle was his and Adams replied it was. Bosco also said he learned that on the day of the incident, Daryl Guthrie, shift foreman, confronted Adams about the smoking incident. Guthrie asked Adams to empty his pockets, but Adams refused. Guthrie told Adams a burned cigarette was found by his water bottle and asked Adams whether the cigarette was his. Adams nodded affirmatively and acknowledged that the cigarette belonged to him.

Adams was immediately suspended and was removed from the Emerald Mine property. On Sept. 4, Adams’ employment was terminated.

Bosco said he interviewed Adams Jan. 8, and Adams indicated he was fully aware of the dangers of smoking in a mine and even taught other miners about the dangers of smoking. Adams, however, denied to Bosco he had smoked in the mine.

“The dangers of smoking in an underground mine are considerable,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Glenn Parno said. “The Environmental Crimes Section is committed to vigorously pursuing criminal violations of the commonwealth’s mining laws, especially violations that jeopardize the health and safety of mine workers.”

Adams is charged with one count of unlawful conduct, one count of risking a catastrophe and one count of recklessly endangering another person.

He was arraigned before District Judge Glenn Bates and released on $50,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

He will be prosecuted in Greene County by Deputy Attorney General Amy Carnicella of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section.

Assisting with the investigation was the Department of Environmental Protection.

Jon Stevens was the Observer-Reporter’s Greene County bureau chief. During his 41 years with the O-R, he covered county government, courts and politics, and won statewide and regional writing awards.

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