Two killed as pit roof collapses on miners

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The Independent Online
TWO MINERS were killed yesterday when the roof of a coal seam collapsed on top of them.

Investigators were last night trying to discover what caused the cave- in at the small, family-owned Moorside Colliery at Eckington, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire - a tragedy that stunned the close-knit community.

Alan Hill, 50, of Poolsbrook, and David Martin, 48, of Woodthorpe, both in the nearby town of Staveley, were certified dead at the scene after being dug out by the Mines Rescue Service. It took rescuers two hours to pull them from the debris after the roof collapsed at 6.45am, 800m along a shaft, 38m underground.

The mine has been shut and it is not known when work will start again.

Friends said that Mr Martin had worked at the pit for only a few months. His wife, Jean, was comforted by the couple's 14-year-old son Darrell and other members of the family.

Dennis Martin, a neighbour from Bridle Road, Woodthorpe, said the village was stunned by the news. "I couldn't believe it when I heard what had happened. He was a nice friendly family man who always said hello to you when you passed him in the street," he said.

Mr Hill, of the Square, Poolsbrook, leaves a widow, Brenda, and three children, Alan, Maureen and Elaine. "The first we knew about the accident was when the police knocked on our door," said Maureen. "We're all devastated."

Bob Stevenson, a mine inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, said the pit opened in 1993 and had a good safety record. These were the first fatalities.

He said: "It has 22 employees from local villages. The workforce are in a terrible state. I would expect it may be several days, maybe weeks, before they start working again."

A third miner involved in the accident, but not seriously hurt, was still too shocked to talk to inspectors, he said.

"Mine investigations will take one or two days. They are subject to witnesses and there is one main witness, but he is in a terrible state. It is down to when he will be available to give a statement.

"The pit has a good safety record, with only relatively normal, minor incidents before this happened," said Mr Stevenson.

The miners were repairing a steel roof in the drift mine, which had subsided, when it collapsed on top of them.

No one at the mine was available for comment, but a worker said managers were "very upset".

A Derbyshire Police spokeswoman said: "There is no suggestion as to what happened.

"There seems to have been some sort of earth slide, but what caused that is yet to be discovered."

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