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4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismisses former Upper Big Branch mine superintendent Gary May's appeal

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A federal appeals court has dismissed former Upper Big Branch mine superintendent Gary May’s appeal of his 21 month prison sentence.

May, who had admitted to hindering a U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration investigation, in March appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the government had misrepresented information to the court and his counsel had been ineffective.

Twenty-nine miners were killed when an explosion ripped through the mine in April 2010. Investigators say the blast was sparked by worn and broken equipment, fueled by accumulations of methane gas and coal dust, and allowed to spread because of clogged and broken water sprayers,

Federal investigators claimed the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, had made "systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts" to hide problems from inspectors and falsified safety records. Managers also alerted other supervisors when inspectors arrived, giving them time to disguise or temporarily fix dangerous conditions.

May had admitted he alerted others when inspectors were coming but insists that the government misrepresented other facts about him and his job to the court. He also claimed his attorney had a conflict of interest.

In its per curiam decision, the appeals court this week said Mays had not demonstrated appealable error.

Massey was sold to Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources after the disaster.