Former miner acquitted of smoking in mine in 2012

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WAYNESBURG, Pa. (AP) — A former miner has been acquitted of charges he smoked a cigarette inside a mine, endangering the lives of fellow workers.

A Greene County jury on Wednesday acquitted Donald Adams Jr., of Spraggs, who had been charged with risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person and criminal violations of the Bituminous Coal Mine Act, The (Washington) Observer-Reporter (http://bit.ly/1owR43p ) reported.

The 52-year-old Adams was part of a four-man crew laying pipe in the Emerald Mine in Franklin Township in August 2012 when two of the men found a cigarette butt and a water bottle left behind in the work area. They said they left through the air lock doors and immediately smelled cigarette smoke and found Adams sitting nearby. One testified that Adams, who had removed his lighted miner's helmet, acknowledged that the water bottle was his and thanked them for retrieving it.

Deputy Attorney General Amy Carnicella suggested to jurors that Adams had removed the lighted helmet so he would not be visible to co-workers while he smoked. Adams was immediately suspended and removed from the property, and his employment was terminated less than two weeks later.

Authorities said more than 100 miners were working at the time, and methane gas was in the mine.

Jurors said after the verdict that they didn't believe the state attorney general's office had presented enough evidence to prove that Adams was smoking. They questioned why DNA was not obtained from the cigarette butt and water bottle.

Defense attorney Benjamin F. Goodwin, who also questioned the lack of DNA evidence, said Adams was "thrilled with the verdict."

"He is just ready to get back on with his life and happy to put this behind him," Goodwin said. "These were very serious charges. It was a felony of the second degree. That carries a 10- to 20-year sentence."

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Information from: Observer-Reporter, http://www.observer-reporter.com

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