Sunday 17 November 2019

Mine employee killed himself in explosion after work criticism

Conor Kane

A man took his own life in an explosion at the mine where he worked just hours after a review meeting at which he became upset when told of "weak points" voiced about him by colleagues, an inquest has heard.

Mine captain Joe Fallon (47) from Two-Mile-Borris, Co Tipperary, left two letters in his work locker before he died in an explosion 190 metres underground on the evening of February 2, 2011. One letter was addressed to his partner and one "to whom it concerns".

The letters were described by his family at the inquest in Clonmel as "his last words". The second note conveyed his concerns about "sloppy things being done that he didn't agree with", coroner Paul Morris told the inquest, and also mentioned "the potential for injury" at Lisheen Mines, Co Tipperary.

Mr Morris did not allow the second letter to be read out, despite Mr Fallon's brother, Kevin, saying the family felt the words "should be heard, not hidden".

The coroner said the letter indicated Joe was "troubled" and "at the end of his tether, emotionally and spiritually". He added there was an "abject failure" by Lisheen Mine's management to take on board issues raised prior to the review or to "handle a situation" between Mr Fallon and a colleague.

The dead man had raised health and safety issues with fellow workers and should have been applauded for doing so, the coroner said.

In the end, "he opted for the ultimate sacrifice to communicate that message".

Mr Fallon was separated from his wife Eileen and living in Callan with his partner, Sara Bulfin, at the time of his death.

The inquest was told Mr Fallon had "no business" being at a Lisheen explosives box at the time of the incident, 6.40pm, and that a number of deliberate steps had to be taken by somebody to set off the explosion that killed him, including pressing two buttons simultaneously. In his verdict, the coroner said this evidence showed the tragedy was "due to an explosion consistent with self-inflicted death".

Irish Independent

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