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Senedd Member welcomes progress on full inquest into Gleision Colliery disaster

24 Mar 2023 3 minute read
Emergency workers at the scene of the Gleision Colliery in 2011. Photograph: Carl Ryan/South Wales police/PA

Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams has welcomed the latest step in holding a full inquest into the deaths of four men who tragically lost their lives in a colliery disaster in Cilybebyll in 2011.

The process for formally agreeing the terms of the inquest commenced today (24 March) and the Coroner is set to announce the date of the inquest following its conclusion.

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

Though three of the men 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 remained over the operation of the mine over several years and what had led to the disaster.

Independent investigation

This was highlighted following a detailed independent investigation that identified a number of issues not previously considered.

The South Wales West MS, has been one of those who have argued that this evidence  pointed to the need for a full inquest, which was originally opened and then adjourned in 2013.

In October 2022, the Coroner heard legal arguments from the barrister engaged to represent those calling for a full inquest and subsequently agreed to open one.

“I have been backing the families’ call for a full inquest since being elected and have been urging the Coroner to respond to those calls. I was delighted when, last December, the campaign was successful and the Coroner ordered a full inquest be held, Ms Williams said.

“It has taken far too long amount of time to get to this point, but I am glad that the families of Charles Breslin, David Powell, Philip Hill and Garry Jenkins will finally have the chance to get answers to the questions they have been asking for the past 12 years. While we can’t bring back those who tragically lost their lives, I hope that this full inquest will provide some closure for the families.

“The families, the mine owners and the wider community deserve to know what happened and whether these deaths could have been prevented and they are now one step closer to justice.”

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