Mine bosses deny safety charges over methane gas death

Daw Mill colliery The accident happened in June 2006 at Daw Mill near Coventry

Safety played "second fiddle" to production in a pit where a coal miner was overcome by methane gas, a court has heard.

Sheffield Crown Court were told how colleagues of Trevor Steeples, 46, of Nottingham fought to rescue him at Daw Mill colliery near Coventry.

John Alstead, 54, of North Yorkshire and Terry Davison, 53, of Notts, deny breaking safety rules.

Mr Steeples died in the accident at the Daw Mill colliery in June 2006.

'Unnecessary risks'

Rex Tedd QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "This wholly unnecessary loss of life followed from the fact that for weeks before, shift after shift, there had been unacceptably high levels of methane gas and unacceptably low levels of oxygen."

Mr Tedd said the affected areas had simply been fenced off and men continued to work in other areas at the mine near Coventry in Warwickshire.

He said the jury would have to decide whether the managers took "unnecessary risks with the safety of the miners".

He said they would have to consider "whether safety of men underground played second fiddle to the desire to keep production going and keep coal flowing out of the mine".

Mr Alstead was mine manager and Mr Davison was assistant under-manager with responsibilities in the district where the accident happened.

Mr Tedd described how other miners tried for an hour to pull Mr Steeples out of danger but were beaten back by the gas.

Mr Tedd said a rescue team did eventually reach Mr Steeples, a foreman, - at "no small risk to themselves" - but it was too late.

The pit, which is owned and operated by UK Coal, is one of the last active deep coal mines in England.

The case continues.

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