Gleision: Malcolm Fyfield and MNS Mining not guilty
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, 58, and mine owners MNS Mining had denied manslaughter through gross negligence.
The jury took just an hour to reach their decision.
Mr 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 Mr 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.
Mr Fyfield, 58, 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.
The case came down to key points:
- The prosecution claimed Mr 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
- Mr 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 Mr Fyfield inspected it
- Mr Fyfield also claimed shot-firer Philip 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 out 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.
"The events of September 15, 2011 will stay with us for the rest of our lives."
They thanked those who helped with the rescue efforts and said they were grateful for the "overwhelming support" they had received from the community.
In a statement the directors of MNS Mining Ltd said: "We are enormously relieved that the jury have determined that neither Malcolm Fyfield or MNS Mining Ltd have committed any crime and were not in any way responsible for these tragic deaths.
"It has been a long and harrowing journey to this point and we would like to thank all those who have supported and helped us through these difficult times."
Detective Superintendent Dorian Lloyd, of South Wales Police, thanked the families for their "unwavering patience and support" of the investigation team.
"From the outset our aim was to establish a full understanding of what happened in the mine not only for the investigation but also for the families," he said.
"They have conducted themselves with tremendous courage and dignity throughout."
Neath MP Peter Hain said no-one would forget the "devastating tragedy" and paid tribute to the families, who he said had conducted themselves with dignity through a "painful and harrowing process".
"There are no winners in this outcome, sadly the families are left with major questions unanswered, they deserve answers," he said.