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Families’ calls for ‘imminent’ decision on Gleision inquest backed by Senedd Member

20 Oct 2022 4 minute read
Memorial to Gleision Mine Disaster. Photo by Nigel Davies is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, Sioned Williams has backed calls made by families of the victims of the Gleision Mining Disaster, for an ‘imminent’ decision for an inquest into the deaths of the four mineworkers killed in the tragedy in 2011.

In a protest to be held at the memorial to the disaster at Cilybebyll Community Centre, victims’ families will today urge the Coroner for Swansea and Neath Port Talbot to respond imminently to the evidence presented to him back in April, which suggested that years of alleged failures by the regulatory bodies may have resulted in operators illegally working coal and not recording it on the mine plans.

The families of the four men who lost their lives in the Gleision Disaster, the mine owners and elected representatives have long argued that this evidence further points to the need for a full inquest, which was originally opened and then adjourned in 2013.

The Coroner will this Friday (21 October) hear legal arguments from the barrister engaged to represent those calling for him to open a full inquest. 

On 15 September 2011, following routine blasting in the Gleision Colliery near Cilybebyll, Pontardawe, thousands of gallons of water flooded into the tunnel where seven miners were working.

Though three of the seven were able to escape to safety, four miners remained trapped. Despite efforts by the Mid and West Wales Fire Service and Mines Rescue, it was confirmed the following day that Charles Breslin, David Powell, Philip Hill, and Garry Jenkins had lost their lives.

Investigations followed and manslaughter charges were brought against both the site manager and MNS Mining Ltd, both were later found not guilty of all charges.

Despite this, questions remain over the operation of the mine over several years and what caused the disaster. This was highlighted following a detailed independent investigation that identified a number of troubling issues not previously looked into.

‘Questions unanswered’

South Wales West MS Sioned Williams said: “Another year has passed since we marked the 10th anniversary of the Gleision Colliery Disaster and still questions remain unanswered as the voices of the victims’ families are still not being heard. 

“Six months ago, I joined their protest held outside Swansea Guildhall when the case for a full inquest was presented in a document to the Coroner.

“I am backing their call on the Coroner to respond imminently to this evidence, evidence that he’s had half a year to read and digest, and to open a full inquest as soon as possible. 

“The deaths of the four men who lost their lives in this tragedy need to be more fully investigated and I urge the Coroner to concur with the legal arguments he will hear this week regarding this evidence. All those linked to this terrible disaster, and the whole community, deserve answers as to what led to the deaths of Charles Breslin, David Powell, Philip Hill, and Garry Jenkins and to know whether their deaths could have been prevented.”

Mining expert Lee Reynolds said: “The body of evidence was presented to the Coroner 12 months ago and was then summarised six months ago at the Coroner’s request; it’s clear to me that a full inquest is long overdue and a decision should be made imminently.”

Plaid Cymru Councillor for Ystalyfera, Alun Llewelyn said: “The pain felt by the families has not gone away over the past ten years.

“They still need answers, and a full inquest is essential to know what happened but also to learn any lessons for the future because people still work underground in our communities.

“I hope the Coroner will finally respond to these appeals this week.”

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