Three Harlan County mine supervisors have pleaded guilty to charges that they intentionally turned off a mine's main fan for six hours while miners continued to work. The fan sweeps out dangerous dusts and gases that can build up when miners are cutting coal.
No one was hurt in the incident. Court documents don't indicate a motive for turning off the fan.
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The charges came about after a surprise inspection of Stillhouse Mining's No. 1 mine near Cumberland in Harlan County in December 2006. Ira Sargent, 56, of Cumberland, Johnny Osborne, 51, of Evarts, and Reggie Raleigh, 37, of Bledsoe, were each charged with two counts of violating the federal Mine Safety Act.
On Thursday, their attorneys filed guilty pleas for one count, with federal prosecutors dismissing the second charge as part of a plea deal. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 16, 2009, at U.S. District Court in London. The men face up to a year in prison.