West Virginia Miners’ Families Settle Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The widows of two men killed in a 2006 West Virginia coal mine fire have settled their wrongful death lawsuits filed against Massey Energy Co., which operates coal mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

In January 2006, two miners, Don Bragg, 33, and Ellery Hatfield, 47, died after getting separated from other miners and lost in thick smoke from a conveyer belt fire at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.
Massey Energy, their subsidiary Aracoma Coal and Massey CEO Don Blankenship were named in the wrongful death lawsuits filed by the surviving widows.
The lawsuits alleged that Massey, which is the fourth largest coal company in the United States, knew or should have known that a missing air control wall could allow smoke to fill escape routes, posing a life-threatening risk in the event of a fire.

According to the Associated Press, a settlement was reached on November 16, 2008, four days into the wrongful death trial. While the terms of settlement were not released, the Logan County jury hearing the case was dismissed by the Court.

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After the coal fire, Investigators found that a conveyor belt was the source of the fire and concluded that faulty firefighting equipment and missing air flow walls prevented the coal miners from escaping.

As a result of the incident, Massey was fined more than one million dollars for violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).


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