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  1. ITV Report

Widow of Gleision miner still has questions five years on from disaster

The widow of one of four men killed in a coal mining accident has said she is still plagued by questions five years on.

Four men drowned in the Gleision mining disaster five years ago. Credit: PA

Charles Breslin, 62, David Powell, 50, Philip Hill, 44, and 39-year-old Garry Jenkins drowned when 650,000 gallons of water were unleashed after controlled explosives were used inside the Gleision mine near Pontardawe.

Their boss was later cleared of gross negligence manslaughter following a three-month trial.

On the the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, Mr Breslin's wife Mavis said her pain at losing her husband still feels as raw ever.

I still remember as if it was yesterday. I was doing some painting in our home, which we had just moved into, when my brother called to say that Charlie had been trapped underground. My heart sank and I immediately up and left and rushed out the house. The two-day wait that followed was soul-destroying. I was hoping against hope that my Charlie would be okay. When eventually I was told that they found his body it didn't seem real. I remember coming home and feeling so numb. It just felt like at any moment he would come through the door as if the whole thing had been a horrible nightmare. It was especially tough because Charlie was only three weeks away from retiring.

– Mavis Breslin
Charles Breslin, Philip Hill, Garry Jenkins and David Powell all died in the Gleision tragedy.

The disaster unfolded on September 15, 2011 when workers attempted to connect two parts of the Gleision mine together using dynamite.

But seconds after miners were told to "get their heads down", enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool rushed into the area they were working in. Experts later worked out it was travelling at 21mph and a rate of 1,500 litres per second.

Once the alarm was raised it prompted one of the largest mine rescue efforts in British history, with experts from across the country racing to South Wales in the hope the trapped men could be brought out alive.

Gleision's manager, Malcolm Fyfield, was cleared of gross negligence manslaughter after a three-month trial. Credit: PA

However, as the hours ticked on all hope was lost and Mr Hill, Mr Jenkins, Mr Breslin and Mr Powell were found dead.

During the trial at Swansea Crown Court that proceeded the disaster, prosecutors said that Gleision's manager, Malcolm Fyfield, should not have allowed his workers to dig towards an area where underground water was present.

However, Mr Fyfield said he had carried out three safety inspections on the eve of the disaster.

A jury also heard that other areas of the mine had not been examined.

I still feel like there are unanswered questions. I don't feel like justice was served. It should never have happened. He was such a lovely man who would always go out of his way to help people. If he ever saw someone in difficulty he would be there straightaway. He was a loving husband and fantastic father. Life has not been the same since he died. I still miss him every day.

– Mavis Breslin