A FORMER pit manager who was in charge of a colliery where four miners died was overcome with emotion as he was cleared of manslaughter.
Malcolm Fyfield, 58, broke down in tears and hugged his wife Gillian yesterday after the verdicts were delivered at Swansea Crown Court. MNS Mining, the owner of the Gleision mine, was also cleared of corporate manslaughter charges.
Philip Hill, 44, Charles Breslin, 62, David Powell, 50, and Garry Jenkins, 39, drowned in September 2011, when around 650,000 gallons of water were unleashed after controlled explosives were used inside the Gleision mine near Pontardawe, south Wales.
Prosecutors had claimed Mr Fyfield was negligent by allowing the men to dig towards an area where underground water was present.
But the father-of-two said he carried out three safety inspections on the eve of the tragedy.
The jury was told the issue of whether the checks were carried out or not was fundamental to the case. Judge Wyn Williams said the panel of eight women and four men should return not guilty verdicts if it believed Mr Fyfield had examined the area.
Less than two hours later, the jury returned a not guilty verdict on a man dubbed “the Alex Ferguson” of the drift mine industry.
Defence counsel Elwen Evans QC said it would have not made sense for mining veteran Mr Fyfield to risk his own life as well as workers.
Mr Fyfield, who was close to the blast site, managed to escape after crawling through dirt and sludge. He spent several weeks in hospital, and at one point was placed in a medically induced coma.
The mine was sealed up less than a month later.
Both Mr Fyfield and his wife declined to comment as they left court in a white BMW, driven by Mr Fyfield’s brother William.
The Crown Prosecution Service defended its decision to press charges against Mr Fyfield and MNS Mining – which it said came following a “thorough investigation”.