West Virginia has hired a University of Arizona lightning expert for its investigation of the Sago Mine explosion.
Hiring professor Philip Krider to work with the Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training is one of several developments in the investigation, Deputy Director C.A. Phillips told members of the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety on Tuesday.
Sago Mine owner International Coal Group has said it believes lightning set off the Jan. 2 explosion by igniting a buildup of naturally occurring methane in the mine.
Lightning has been known to trigger mine explosions, but state and federal investigators have yet to determine the cause of the accident that led to the deaths of 12 miners.
Krider will review information provided by ICG and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, Gresham said.
He will analyze the time and magnitude of lightning strikes recorded near the mine about the time of the explosion.
A University of Arizona Web site said Krider led a group that developed equipment which serves as the basis for the National Lightning Detection Network and has published numerous scientific articles on lightning-related subjects.
He could not be reached for comment.
“I think that our investigative team took time to select somebody that they thought would best be able to help them,” Gresham said.
Hiring Krider fits with one conclusion of a special report on Sago by J. Davitt McAteer, who was asked by Gov. Joe Manchin to conduct an independent investigation.
McAteer recommended developing emergency measures to improve protection against lightning strikes.
While McAteer’s report came out last month, state investigators don’t expect to wrap up their work before the end of the year, Gresham said.
“The governor has told the staff at Miners’ Health Safety and Training that he wants them to leave no stones unturned,” she said. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”