Investigators probing the Upper Big Branch mine explosion have started interviewing witnesses even though hazardous conditions have kept them from going underground to search for a cause.
Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere says interviews started May 10 at the agency’s mine academy in Beaver.
MSHA has been chastised by mine owner Massey Energy and sued by the United Mine Workers for not questioning witnesses in public during a formal hearing.
The agency reiterated its plans this week for a series of public meetings, though witness interviews are being done in private.
Louviere says the agency isn’t releasing names either.
The April 5 explosion killed 29 miners, the nation’s worst coal-industry disaster in 40 years.