Mine criticised by inquest for death

Kellingley Colliery in Knottingley. Below: Miner Gerry Gibson
Kellingley Colliery in Knottingley. Below: Miner Gerry Gibson
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THE family of a Yorkshire miner who died when a pit roof collapsed said they hope lessons can be learned from the “obvious shortcomings” that led to his “untimely and unnecessary” death.

Gerry Gibson, 49, died of asphyxiation when he was buried by the rock fall at Kellingley Colliery near Selby, North Yorkshire, in September 2011.

Miner Gerry Gibson

Miner Gerry Gibson

Another miner, Philip Sheldon, was also trapped but was rescued by colleagues and suffered minor injuries.

It was the second time the roof had collapsed in less than a week, an inquest in Selby heard.

Yesterday a jury returned a narrative verdict which said that an investigation into the first rock fall was “inadequate” and Mr Gibson, of Sherburn-in-Elmet, was not properly made aware that the section of pit had collapsed.

Following the verdict, Mr Gibson’s son Sean Gibson said outside Selby’s Community House, where the Coroners’ Court was sitting: “We were truly devastated by Gerry’s sudden and tragic death in September 2011.

“We would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute again to everyone involved in attempts to rescue Gerry, particularly his colleagues who, despite suffering from severe exhaustion, continued to work in what were extremely difficult and hazardous conditions to recover his body – a testament to their depth of concern for a fallen friend.

“We would like to extend our thanks to those involved gathering information ascertaining to the events leading to Gerry’s untimely and unnecessary death.”

Sean, also a mine worker, added: “We continue to suffer greatly from the aftermath of Gerry’s death, particularly his wife, Brenda, and his sons, me and Andrew. He has left a huge hole in our lives and hearts.

“We are glad UK Coal has been made to account for their obvious shortcomings in health and safety regulations and the apparent lack of robust and rigorous assessment and communication, which may have prevented the tragedy.

“We are relieved the inquest has come to an end and hope the findings go some way to ensure a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again.”

Jurors heard how colleagues of Mr Gibson, who was originally from Shotts, North Lanarkshire, were “all digging with their bare hands” in a brave and desperate bid to free him.

He was buried while working at the coal face 2,625ft (800m) underground.

Extra roof supports were used in the pit after the first collapse but were not being used on the day of Mr Gibson’s death, North Yorkshire Coroner Rob Turnbull has heard.

The miner would have been rendered unconscious immediately and death would have happened very quickly, the inquest was told.

Mr Turnbull directed the jury to return a narrative verdict, which stated Mr Gibson and his colleagues “were unaware” of the previous rock fall and “the subsequent investigation was inadequate”.

The verdict continued: “Gerry Gibson and his colleagues were following normal working procedures.

“Relevant information regarding the incident was not cascaded appropriately or effectively.”

Following the week-long hearing, UK Coal said new measures have been introduced as a result of the tragedy.

The company said: “We deeply regret the loss of Gerry Gibson and have taken a number of steps to strengthen health and safety procedures since this tragic incident.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage, but our thoughts remain with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”

Last night a spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said its investigation was continuing.