A 2010 explosion in West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine killed 29 of the 39 employees on site. Most of the blame for the tragedy fell on Don Blankenship, the CEO of the mine’s parent company, Massey Energy, which was already being monitored by the feds. Before the explosion, the mine had been written up dozens of times for safety violations, including problems with ventilation and methane buildup.
In 2015, Blankenship became the first top executive in U.S. history to be sentenced to prison for safety violations.
VICE News spoke with Blankenship soon after he completed his one-year prison sentence.
The man referred to as the “Dark Lord of Coal” has reemerged from incarceration to proclaim his innocence and inform the public on what he believes to be the truth: that t the explosion was the result of natural gas, not safety violations. President Obama, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, and the victims’ families all blame him, but he says he is a political prisoner, a victim of a system that prosecutes based on beliefs, not facts.
This segment originally aired June 8, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.