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Gleision trial: Manager would have known rules "in his bones"

By SWEPRMosalski  |  Posted: April 04, 2014

Directors of MNS Mining Ltd Maria Seage and Gerald Ward are on trial with mine manager Malcolm Fyfield

A MINE manager would have known “in his bones” that he needed to submit specific plans if he planned to work from new into old workings, a court has heard.

Malcolm Fyfield denies the manslaughter of four men in the Gleision Colliery tragedy.

As part of their case, the prosecution allege that by breaking through a wall into an area called the Old Central workings he caused 650,000 gallons of water to rush into the stall where the men were working, drowning them.

They say to break through that wall, he would have need to take specific precautions to prevent an inrush of water and that no schemes of that type were submitted to the authorities.

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The latest witness is John Brosnan, who was the mine’s surveyor in 2011 and conducted the last survey in July, before the tragedy.

During his evidence, Mr Brosnan was asked by Fyfield’s barrister, Elwen Evans QC asked him about a conversation he recounted to the jury.

He said on July 3, the day of his last inspection, Fyfield asked him if he was allowed to drill into what the prosecution say is a cautionary zone – an area where special care must be taken.

Mr Brosnan said he told Fyfield if he wanted to go into that area he may have to submit a Precaution Against Inrush (PAI) plan or at least drain – or dewater – any old workings of water.

Ms Evans said: “You wouldn’t have necessarily have said to Mr Fyfield, you know if you’re going in that direction, you must make a PAI application because he would know that?”

“Yes, I would assume he would know that,” replied Mr Bronan.

“He knew if there was a flooded area he would need a PAI and would need to dewater there, he would know that almost in his bones?”

“I would say so, yes,” replied Mr Brosnan.

“It would be a very strange conversation for you to have because these are things that you would say he would know?” she asked.

“He would, but I would still have said it,” he replied.

Mr Brosnan said he was never told that another men had died in the mine, early in 2011 and did not know if there had been an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

The jury, of eight women and four men, have been told that man died of natural causes.

He also said he had been quizzed by police about why a so-called cautionary zone had been drawn around workings in the North East of the mine.

Mr Brosnan said he had been told by the previous manager, Brian Amber, that zone had been examined and there were no concerns about water or gas.

“Because it had been examined there was no need for me to draw a cautionary zone. I have not been into this area because it’s the duty of the mine owner to do his daily inspection and I would rely on the information that he would have passed to me”.

Mr Brosnan said he was not given a handover of information by the surveyor employed by the owners before him and said he was given just one map, a so-called “working map” from 2005.

Fyfield, aged 58, from Caerhenllys in Cwmllynfell, denies four charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

MNS Limited, represented in court by directors Gerald Ward and Maria Seage, deny four charges of corporate manslaughter.

Philip Hill, aged 44, Charles Breslin, aged 62, David Powell, aged 50, and Garry Jenkins, aged 39, all died in the disaster on September 15, 2011.

The trial continues.

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