Fatal accident in Welsh mine: More backers for appeal as investigations continue


More patrons are being announced by the Swansea Valley Miners Appeal Fund, set up for relatives of the 4 men killed in the flooded mine at Gleision Colliery.

Phillip Hill, 45, Garry Jenkins, 39, David Powell, 50, and Charles Breslin, 62, died after they were trapped in the mine near Pontardawe.

Mine – Fatal Accident at work

With donations to the fund reaching £50,000 by last Monday, Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said the government would pay the equivalent of Gift Aid, adding another 25%.

"No one could fail to have been touched by this tragedy and the response to this appeal is heartfelt," said Mrs Gillan. "People have donated generously to the Appeal Fund and I hope they will continue to do so."

On top of all donations, Mrs Gillan said that paying the Gift Aid equivalent of 25% would make a "significant difference", while Neath MP Peter Hain said the total would be distributed to the families by the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers.

In a private message to bereaved families, the Prince of Wales, who is the royal patron of the appeal, voiced his "deep sadness".

The fatal accident occurred when water flooded the mine's shaft due to failure of an underground retaining wall. Of the 3 men who escaped, 1 was taken to Swansea's Morriston Hospital, while the other 2 joined the rescue effort.

Health and Safety Executive specialist mine inspectors have been onsite working closely with the police.

Tyrone O'Sullivan, who ran Tower Colliery, the last deep pit in Wales, knew Gleision Colliery had been inspected within the past year. But he said such small mines should be no more dangerous than larger ones, adding that inspectors must be allowed to do their work.

"Water is always a danger - you must always realise that the other side of the wall there could be water because the surface water permeates through, but if you ever think you're near those places, you drill holes and leave them to see if water gets in.

Lisa Sheldon of Simpson Millar LLP observed that the evidence of the 3 survivors will be a great help to the investigation. "Obviously it's too early to draw any final conclusions as to what specifically caused the accident, but it will be very useful to know what was occurring before the flood breached the failed wall."

Mr O'Sullivan said that there are rules and regulations to working a coal mine. "If you abide by those rules, they are there for all to see. These small mines shouldn't be any more dangerous than the larger ones. This mine we're talking about is only down 300m, whereas Tower colliery was 3.5 miles underground."

He said the inspectors would be looking at safety reports relating to the mine and checking that all regular visits were up to date.

News Archive

Get In Touch