The manager and owners of a Swansea Valley mine where four miners died have been cleared of manslaughter. Charles Breslin, 62, David Powell, 50, Philip Hill, 44, and Garry Jenkins, 39, drowned in 2011 when 650,000 gallons of water flooded the Gleision drift mine following a controlled explosion. Manager Malcolm Fyfield and mine owners MNS Mining had denied manslaughter through gross negligence. The jury took just an hour to reach their decision. Fyfield, who has suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder since surviving the incident, broke down in tears as the not guilty verdicts were read out at Swansea Crown Court. Key to the three-month case was whether Fyfield inspected the mine as he said he did. The former mine manager was working underground with the men when water tore into the pit after they blasted into old coal workings near Pontardawe.
Fyfield, who had come out of retirement to run the mine and who had a “sky-high reputation,” had been given orders to connect two parts of the pit to improve ventilation. Fyfield said there was only a small amount of water present the day before the incident. The case came down to key points.
The prosecution claimed Fyfield had been warned about the existence of the underground water, which later flooded the mine. They said he intended to breach the old central workings and thought he could do it without causing any danger to the men.
Fyfield said there was “no doubt” he inspected the right area of the pit the day before it flooded. He said he had inspected it three times where the miners would work to ensure there were no dangers, including water. Geologist Dr. Alan Cobb said it was “possible” and “probable” that the water collected after Fyfield inspected it. Fyfield also claimed shot-firer Hill, who was killed in the tragedy, used multiple shots of explosives the day before, against his instructions. The mine boss said he only wanted single shots used.
A statement from the families of the men who died was read aloud on the court steps following the verdicts. It said, “Today has been a difficult day for us all, as have the last two-and-a-half years since we lost our loved ones at the Gleision mine. We miss Gary, Philip, Charles and David dearly. Not a day has passed without wishing they were still with us.”
They thanked those who helped with the rescue efforts and said they were grateful for the “overwhelming support” they had received from the community.