Police Still Investigating Handlova Mine Tragedy of 2009

An installation called Pain in Heart at the funeral of miners and rescuers killed at the Handlova Mine in August 2009. (Photo by TASR)

Bratislava/Trencin, March 29 (TASR) – The police still haven’t finished investigating the circumstances surrounding the lethal explosion in the Handlova mine (Trencin region) in August 2009, which is regarded as the most deadly mining tragedy in Slovakia’s history, Trencin Regional Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Marian Sipavy has told TASR.
The investigation was re-launched in October 2016.

“The prosecution into the crime of obstructing the execution of justice still hasn’t been concluded, it continues. An investigator from the Prievidza District Police Directorate is carrying out procedural moves in the case in line with the Penal Order at the order of a prosecutor from the Prievidza District Prosecutor’s Office,” said Sipavy.

In the case, which had already seen sentences passed, a prosecutor from the Prievidza District Prosecutor’s Office based on an examination of the dossier scrapped a decision made by an investigator on September 12, 2016 to drop suspicions into the crime of obstructing the execution of justice, deeming it as unlawful. A copy of the resolution on relaunching the prosecution obtained by TASR states that the “perpetrator, as a staff member of the Main Mining Office (HBU), via their orders concerning the drawing up of a report on the findings, influenced the work of the consultative commission”.

TV Markiza was the first to report on the investigation’s re-launching in October 2016, citing a former head of the mining security department at HBU, Vladimir Tejbus. “The evidence that’s possible to find in the investigation dossier suggest that the entire course of the mining tragedy, but mainly the causes of the fatal working injuries of the 20 miners, could have been, with probability bordering to certainty, entirely different,” said Tejbus, who presided over the consultative commission. According to TV Markiza, the probable causes of death didn’t make it into the commission’s conclusive report following an intervention by HBU chairman Peter Kukelcik.

HBU reacted to the report by rejecting the accusations.

The tragic explosion took place underground in the morning of August 10, 2009 in the-then Eastern Shaft at the Handlova mine. The explosion of mining gases and its aftermath killed 20 miners and mining rescuers. Another nine miners suffered various kinds of injuries.

Rescuers were tackling a fire that had emerged in the shaft when a blast occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m. The incident is considered to be the biggest tragedy in the history of modern Slovak mining.

A judge of the Prievidza District Court, Pavol Bielik, convicted three people from the Upper Nitra Mines Prievidza in regards to the incident – Ladislav H., Jozef T., and Dalibor R. – sentencing them to imprisonment for between five to eight years, including multi-year bans on carrying out senior posts at mines. The verdict still hasn’t entered into force, however, as all three men via their lawyers immediately appealed the convictions.