South West Wales

Gleision deaths: Mine rescuers 'saw water up to roof'

Gleision mining victims Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption Garry Jenkins, 39, Philip Hill, 44, David Powell, 50, and Charles Breslin, 62, were killed in the mine

A blast in a Swansea Valley mine caused 650,000 gallons of water to sweep through a section where miners were working leaving flooding up to the roof, Swansea Crown Court was told.

The detonation of the explosives at Gleision pit opened a path for water from old mine workings, the jury heard.

David Powell, 50, Charles Breslin, 62, Philip Hill, 44, and Garry Jenkins, 39, died in the incident in 2011.

Mine owners MNS and manager Malcolm Fyfield deny manslaughter charges.

The jury heard how mine rescuers arrived at the Gleision pit near Pontardawe - a drift mine cut into the side of a hill, where the coal seam is accessed by walking in - at 10:30 on 15 September, 2011 but were hampered by water up to the roof.

The miners' bodies were not discovered until the following day.

Mr Jenkins's mother, who was in court, had to dry her eyes as she heard details of how her son's body was found face down on a conveyor belt.

His helmet had been washed off and his body was covered in silt.

The court heard that rescuers had been told not to remove the bodies.

In a different part of the mine, the rescue team saw a pair of boots and began digging out Mr Breslin.

A couple of metres away they found Mr Powell, who was in a crouched position, the court was told. Mr Hill was also nearby.

Earlier on Friday, the jury was told how thousands of gallons of water swept through the mine in seconds following the explosion.

The quantity of water - nearly three million litres - was slightly more than the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The detonation of the explosives opened up a path for water from old mine workings, the court heard.

Water flooded in flushing away roof supports and rushing into a working area, leaving debris in its path.

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Mine manager Malcolm Fyfield was described as very safety conscious in court


The jury has heard how mine workers had drilled a hole in a wall on the day before the disaster as production moved towards the old workings. Water began to flow through "like a tap half turned on".

The prosecution claim the men had been concerned about moving towards the old workings, but because the amount of water trickling through the hole was small they did not think it was a problem and believed the water would be gone by Thursday, 15 September.

The court heard that Mr Fyfield assessed the hole on the Thursday morning and found there was a "minimal amount" of water there.

But the prosecution said this was because the hole had been blocked with silt and coal sediments from the large body of water on the other side that had gathered in the old workings since 1984.

Mr Fyfield was described in court as a "hands on" manager and was very safety conscious and it was how he was known in the industry.

Before the trial was adjourned for the day on Friday, the court heard Mr Fyfield had made inquiries about the possibility of extracting coal in the area above the section of the mine where the men were working.

He had been told that, technically, he could enter the old workings but would need a de-watering scheme in place first as well as a "precaution against inrush" scheme and this would have to be approved by the mines inspectorate.

Two directors of MNS mining also deny four charges of corporate manslaughter.

The trial is due to last until at least the end of June.

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