Massey Mine Disaster Families May be ‘Victim of a Federal Crime’

April 24, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

 

 

 

Local coal miner Kevin Honaker participates in a candle light vigil at Marshfork Elementary School held for the deceased coal miners on April 10, 2010 in Montcoal, West Virginia in which 19 miners died in a mining accident. (Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)
Local coal miner Kevin Honaker participates in a candle light vigil at Marshfork Elementary School held for the deceased coal miners on April 10, 2010 in Montcoal, West Virginia in which 19 miners died in a mining accident. (Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)
Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mining disaster last year that led to the death of 19 miners is still being investigated by the FBI. In a letter obtained by the West Virginia Gazette-Mail, a representative for the FBI told a number of family members that they might have been the victims of a federal crime.

The two page letter says that they may be eligible for victim assistance funds. The letter was signed by an agent for the FBI’s Charleston, W.Va., field office, Joseph I. Ciccarelli.

The letter also states that under federal law, victims are allowed to know the status of a case still under investigation.

"As you may be aware, the FBI has instituted an investigation into various activities at UBB [Upper Big Branch Mine] in an effort to determine whether any federal crimes have occurred," the letter states. "In connection therewith, you may be the victim of a federal crime."

The Mail-Gazette reported that when Stuart Fronk, assistant special agent in charge of FBI operations in West Virginia, was contacted, he said that the document was "a standard letter," and refused to comment further.

The letter is the latest move in the FBI’s work to uncover any wrongdoing in the mining disaster, which they have called a "national disaster."

In late February, the chief of security at UBB and at least two other Massey operations, Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, was charged with two felonies in connection with the federal investigation. Stover was indicted "on charges of making false statements to federal agents and obstructing a federal investigation." He was arrested at his home in Clear Fork, W.Va.