Witness testifies ex-Massey CEO couldn't 'afford a disaster'

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A key government witness says he warned his former coal company's top executive who questioned his suggestion to hire more miners over safety issues that the company couldn't afford to have a disaster.

In Charleston federal court Wednesday, former Massey Energy safety official William Ross detailed a lunch meeting with CEO Don Blankenship in the summer of 2009.

Blankenship questioned Ross over the cost of hiring more workers at Massey mines. Ross says he told Blankenship, "one thing you can't afford to have happen, you cannot afford a disaster, because most mines cannot survive a disaster."

The Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia exploded in April 2010, killing 29 miners. Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break safety laws at the mine and lying to financial regulators about safety.