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21 months in prison for former UBB superintendent

A former superintendent at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County is going to federal prison for 21 months following an earlier guilty plea to conspiracy.

Gary May, 43, of Bloomingrose, received the upper end of the sentencing guidelines from U.S. District Judge Irene Berger during a Thursday morning sentencing in Beckley.

A massive explosion at UBB in April 2010 claimed the lives of 29 miners. In the months prior to the blast May was part of a conspiracy that would alert personnel when federal mine inspectors arrived at the mine. He was then part of the cover-up of those violations.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says the conspiracy was broad including “advance warning of mine inspections. When warnings were given, cleaning up, throwing more rock dust down,” Goodwin continued. “Changing ventilation, bridging a methane monitor on a continuous mining machine and falsifying mine inspection books.”

Goodwin says May was a superintendent over another part of UBB, not the area that exploded, but he says his actions speak to what was happening there.

“All of these have been widely discussed as contributing factors as to what caused the Upper Big Branch explosion,” he said.

May had asked Judge Berger to be lenient and give him home confinement or probation. Federal prosecutors sought a stiff sentence to send a message about mine safety.

U.S. Attorney Goodwin says Berger went with 21 months.

“With this sentence Judge Berger took the opportunity to send a powerful message to this mine manager and other mine managers who would put profits over safety,” Goodwin said. “If you violate mine laws and put miners at risk, you’re going to go to jail.”

May is the second UBB worker to be sentenced to federal prison in connection with the mine disaster investigation. Former security chief Hughie Stover got a three year prison sentence. A third Massey Energy official, David Hughart, is scheduled to plead guilty to charges later this year.



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