CHARLESTON, W.Va., April 27 (UPI) -- The chairman of Massey Energy, the owner of a West Virginia coal mine where 29 people died, denies the company puts profits over safety.
At a news conference Monday, Massey Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Donald Blankenship said the April 5 explosion, the worst U.S. mining disaster in four decades, "left us humbled and hurt and searching for answers." He said the company would investigate the disaster to determine changes that could improve safety.
Federal officials, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have criticized Massey's safety record, suggesting the company cut corners. The explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine has been blamed on a buildup of methane.
Blankenship was flanked by several members of the company's board, including Bobby Ray Inman, a retired admiral and former head of the National Security Agency. Inman called the safety allegations "this big lie," which he said originated in litigation against the company.
Another board member, Stanley Suboleski, a mining engineer and former member of the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, said no abnormal methane levels were detected before the explosion.