I have written a FOIA request for pictures taken during the entry to recover bodies from the Wilberg Coal Mine Fire/Disaster on December 19, 1984. That entry was made in November, 1985. At one time MSHA had those pictures. I want them for a book I am writing. The Uncalled Witness is about the true causes of that fire, disclosed to MSHA but never surfaced in their investigation. I have been stonewalled and otherwise denied those pictures. My latest entry, an open letter in these matters:
Cheryl Garcia, Assistant Inspector General
Leia Burks, Deputy Assistant Inspector General
200 Constitution Avenue, NW Room S-5014
Washington, DC 20210
Re: WILBERG Coal Mine Disaster of December 19, 1984 – AN UNCALLED WITNESS – I received a response from MSHA in the FOIA request #741254.
Dear Cheryl Garcia and/or Leia Burks, Investigators:
In my last letter to you I noted: “I have information going directly to the undisclosed cause of the Wilberg Coal Mine Disaster on December 19, 1984. I have sought copies of the pictures taken upon entry for body recovery the following November which would have been in 1985. Those pictures among other things show the bodies as they were found.”
I received a response dated June 05 2017 concerning my FOIA request, 741254: “In response to your enclosed email dated April 26, 2017, please find a copy of the response sent to you on November 19, 2014, pertaining to the above referenced matter. If you have any questions, please contact Michelle Sieder at (202) 693 – 9442.” It was signed by Timothy Watkins.
Not only does it defy logic and reason MSHA would not have taken underground photos of their victims, I have seen some of those photos. I have no questions except where are the photos?
With the current referred MSHA response I received a computer disk titled “Information Release 741254 Mr. Don Leach – June 8, 2017 Previously Mailed Photos, (emphasis added.)” I note that disk had no photos. I turned to the referred letter of November 19, 2014 and therein MSHA notes, “we conducted a thorough search of our records for the underground photographs pertaining to the Wilber Mining Accident on December 19, 1984.” Thereafter they go on to say, “you were informed that no underground photographs were located. During that telephone conference, you agreed to accept a copy of the photographs that had been located…” which I again note I did not receive.
MSHA refers to the “previously mailed photos” that were not mailed, and I was informed that no photographs were located, but just received a disk of the “previously mailed photos.” Of particular interest concerning this disc is the fact the only file on it was an Excel page which I am assuming is a list of the identification numbers of the numerous photographs I have requested but not received. MSHA is most probably keeping those photos hidden for their own internal political reasons.
I believe based upon the knowledge I have in this matter, the evidence I have in my possession, and the in-depth legal training I received at the Willamette College of Law, it is probable MSHA is criminally culpable in the deaths of those 27 minors, my friends and neighbors.
MSHA has a strong internal motivation to keep those pictures from me (whether they have destroyed them or hid them); to keep the file I sent them back-in-the-day by certified mail -hidden; and to play the political ostrich game while being unresponsive to my requests.
Flowing from these failures comes a complete understanding as to why the Inspector General team has not contacted me directly in this matter. I see no reason why at this point in time the Inspector General team will do anything other than what it has continued to do – so far, nothing.
MSHA will continue in the same vein, stonewalling. Even so, I again request those pictures and in that process, the IG become involved in this matter.
Don W. Leach – dated 170620
86906 Pine Grove Road
Eugene, Oregon 97402
541 579 3500
Copy: Attention Michelle Seider, c/o MSHA @ 201 12th Street S, Arlington, Virgina 22202-5452 and Social media