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March 28, 2014

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Sound of explosion in Gleision mine “like a jet engine”


The sound of the explosion that took place at Swansea Valley pit where four men died was “like a jet engine”, a jury has heard.
David Powell, 50, Charles Breslin, 62, Philip Hill, 44, and Garry Jenkins, 39, died when water burst into the Gleision drift mine near Pontardawe.
Manager Malcolm Fyfield, who is on trial over the deaths, escaped from the mine along with two other men.
Mr Fyfield, 58, denies manslaughter and MNS Mining Ltd, which owned the colliery is also denying four counts of corporate manslaughter.
The trial, which started on 24 March at Swansea Crown Court, has heard that Mr Fyfield had been in charge of the mine for 10 weeks before the explosion in September 2011.
Prosecutor Gregg Taylor said coal was extracted from the 100-year-old drift mine using explosives.
The jury heard that at about 09:00 GMT on 15 September 2011 a mine worker called David Wyatt told colleagues he was going to “fire the shots” to extract the coal.
The men then heard an explosion that sounded “like a jet engine” and the miners shouted “run” as they tried to get out.
Mr Fyfield later recounted to police that he found one of the men who died, Mr Powell, and tried to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a flooded stall with only four inches of headroom. 
Mr Taylor recounted Mr Fyfield’s account of what happened: “David Powell was showing no signs of life. It was not possible to get a pulse because of the debris around.”
About five metres away, Mr Fyfield found a second miner, Philip Hill, and again tried to resuscitate him. However, the air he breathed into Mr Hill’s lungs came straight back out suggesting they were blocked with water. 
Mr Fyfield then escaped from the mine as the water levels were rising fast.
Post-mortem examinations found all the miners lungs were blocked by water contaminated with coal and silt. 
The jury has been told that Mr Fyfield still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident and will not sit in the dock for the duration of the trial.
He will also require breaks and may have to leave the court on occasions.
Two directors of MNS mining deny four charges of corporate manslaughter.
The trial is expected to last until the end of June.

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