In October of 2011, Jeromy Coots helped transport the lifeless body of his older brother out of the coal mine where they'd worked together in eastern Kentucky. Richard Coots, just 23 years old, had been crushed to death by a piece of mining machinery below ground.
Now, not even three years later, the younger Coots has been fired from his job at a different mine for flagging the sort of dangers that claimed his brother, according to Labor Department filings. He was let go in May after he complained in a company meeting that safety standards weren't being met inside the mine. He's 22 years old, with a wife and three kids.
A federal investigation found that Coots was specifically fired from the job—installing roof supports in a Harlan County, Kentucky, mine—because of a dispute over the use a (legally mandatory) piece of safety equipment.
The Department of Labor determined that Richard Coots's 2011 death could have been prevented if mine managers had taken proper safety precautions.
A third Coots brother died in 2010 in a car crash.