CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The security chief of a Massey Energy Co. subsidiary is charged in a federal indictment with obstructing the investigation of a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine in southern West Virginia, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The indictment accuses Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, of lying to an FBI agent and a federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector. It also charges he ordered an employee to dispose of thousands of pages of security documents from the Raleigh County mine more than nine months after the explosion.
The April 5 blast was the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine since 1970 and remains the subject of criminal and civil investigations. Stover is the first person connected to the case known to be charged with a crime.
Stover was head of security at Performance Coal, the Massey subsidiary that operates the mine. The indictment was handed up Friday and unsealed Monday when Stover was arrested and later released on a $10,000 bond. Lying to the FBI is punishable by up to five years in prison, while obstruction carries a 20-year term.
A telephone message left at Stover's Clear Fork home was not immediately returned Monday. Stover is due to be arraigned March 15 in Beckley.
The indictment was no surprise to coal miner Clay Mullins, whose brother Rex died at Upper Big Branch.
"I expected it, and I expect there'll be more because that's just the way they run their operations," Mullins said. "I hate it for that guy's family, but our families need justice. .<\!p>.<\!p>. This is something that needs to never be forgotten."
Mullins said he's frustrated that the first indictment took so long, "but I do appreciate them doing a thorough investigation." He said he wants all of those responsible to be held accountable.
"The people that's responsible, I hope they do go to jail," he said. "If they broke the law, that's no different than anybody else on the street. If they violate the laws, they go to prison."