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McAteer tapped for mine disaster probe

By Staff | Apr 16, 2010

J. Davitt McAteer

Gov. Joe Manchin has appointed J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary for the Mine Safety and Health Administration under President Bill Clinton, to lead an independent panel appointed by the governor to investigate the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that took the lives of 29 West Virginia miners on April 5.

McAteer, who currently is vice president of Wheeling Jesuit University, brings a wealth of experience in mine safety to this role as special adviser to the governor. The Fairmont native and Shepherdstown resident received his undergraduate degree from Wheeling Jesuit and his law degree from WVU. He has devoted much of his professional efforts to mine health and safety issues, including leading Gov. Manchin’s 2006 blue ribbon panel that investigated the Sago and Aracoma mine accidents in West Virginia.

“We owe it to the families of the 29 miners we lost last week to find out what caused this,” Manchin said. “And we owe it to them and every coal miner working today to do everything humanly possible to prevent this from happening again. Davitt has the experience and knowledge to lead what will be a complex and extensive investigation into this horrible accident. We made tremendous progress in 2006 immediately following the Sago and Aracoma accidents and I fully expect that we will learn even more from this and make dramatic changes to protect our miners.”

McAteer will begin putting together a team this week to assist him. “While we are an independent panel, we will be working with federal and state mine safety officials to gather the facts about this accident and the situations leading up to it,” McAteer said. “This will be an independent review of the accident and the agencies and we will put together our recommendations on what we can do to improve mine safety overall and prevent another accident like this.”

Ron Wooten, director of the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, said his agency welcomes McAteer’s assistance and input into the investigation.