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Sago official lied about training; examiner’s notes ‘disappeared’

To see transcripts of the Sago mine interviews, please visit http://www.wvgazette.com/static/sago/

One Sago Mine fireboss lied about receiving annual safety training, and another said that his safety check notebook “disappeared” after the Jan. 2 explosion that killed 12 miners, transcripts of investigation interviews show.

John Nelson Boni told investigators he signed a form stating that he had received the training last October. But when asked what happened during the training, Boni said, “Well, you got me.”

“I didn’t take that class,” Boni testified during a January interview with Sago disaster investigators. “And you’re going to catch me anyway, so I’m going to tell you.”

Boni testified under oath that his recollection is that Sago safety director Al Schoonover brought him the form and asked him to sign it anyway.

“They just brought it for me and I signed it,” Boni said. “I think it was Mr. Schoonover.”

Another Sago fireboss, Fred Jamison, testified that he did the crucial pre-shift safety examination the morning of the explosion in the area where the explosion is believed to have occurred.

Jamison said that it was the second time that he had examined that particular area of the Sago Mine — and it was also the second time that he had performed a pre-shift examination on a working face area of an underground coal mine. In the past, Jamison said, he examined belt lines and other nonface areas of underground mines.

Jamison said he kept notes of his examinations in a small notebook that he always carried underground with him.

“My notes, when we came outside, our clothes were hanging outside, and my coat, my notes, my mining light and spotter were all — disappeared,” Jamison said in a Jan. 17 interview.

“You know how it is, everybody worried what’s this, what’s this?” Jamison said. “Here comes the rescue squad. Here comes mine rescue. It’s just hard to tell what happened to the stuff. Mine wasn’t the only one. There were other clothes gone, too.

“But I mean, you know, you see an old shirt laying there, you see an old coat, you got something going on inside, it just doesn’t mean anything,” Jamison said.

Jamison testified that his pre-shift examination turned up no problems in the 2 Left area, near where the explosion occurred. But on the day of the explosion, a state mine inspector who also is a friend of Jamison grilled him about whether he really did a complete safety check of the area.

“...I’m a friend of Freddy Jamison ... and I’ve known him for quite a while in a lot of different mines,” state inspector John Collins said in an interview with investigators.

Collins testified that he was “suspicious” that someone had removed mine ventilation controls and that “Freddy didn’t fireboss it, and they threw the power in and blew the mine up.”

“So that’s why I asked Freddy to step around the corner, and I got on Freddy pretty hard, but I wanted to know for sure if he had firebossed that section,” Collins said. “And he said that he had and that he had a good detector, and that he had not found any methane in the face on 2 Left and that the section ... looked better than it normally does.”

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.


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