Gleision mining disaster: Bereaved families angry as long-awaited inquest delayed

The flooding of Gleision drift mine was the last disaster of its kind in the UK to date. Credit: ITV Wales

The families of four men who died in the UK’s last mining disaster in 2011 are angry a long-awaited inquest has stalled due to renewed police enquiries.

Charles Breslin, 62, David Powell, 50, Phillip Hill, 44, and Garry Jenkins, 39, died when water flooded the Gleision drift mine, near Cilybebyll, Neath Port Talbot, in September 2011.

Manager Malcolm Fyfield, and mine owners MNS Mining, were cleared of manslaughter through gross negligence in a trial in 2014.

Last year the families were finally granted a full inquest into the deaths of their loved ones but the latest hearing was “vacated” by the coroner.

Charles Breslin, 62, David Powell, 50, Philip Hill, 44, and 39-year-old Garry Jenkins died in the disaster.

In a letter to the interested parties, seen by ITV News, acting coroner for Swansea, Colin Phillips, said he cannot fix a final hearing for the inquest due to “ongoing police enquiries in relation to matters upon which the inquests are likely to touch.”

When he confirmed an inquest would go ahead in December 2022, Mr Phillips said he was satisfied there was “more than a suspicion” safety regulations were “not strictly enforced” for over a decade before the disaster.

He also said, had “regulatory failings” not taken place, the deaths may have been avoided.”

South Wales Police has confirmed it is assessing information connected to the original investigation.

A spokesman told ITV News it has “recently received information regarding matters connected to the original investigation into the incident at the Gleision Mine in 2011.

“The information received is currently being assessed by the force. We also remain engaged with HM Coroner in advance of a future inquest.”

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said “we have received a request from South Wales Police for early advice in this case.”

Lawyers for the families were recently informed by the coroner that he was not at liberty to provide information regarding the current police enquiries, but said he did not intend to suspend the inquest.

Lynette Powell, widow of David, told ITV News she was frustrated at the lack of communication from the coroner and the police.

“I’m so bloody angry, this should have been sorted 10 years ago. It seems as if no-one’s telling any of us what’s going on.”

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