CHARLESTON -- Massey Energy has reached settlements of potential wrongful death suits with the families of at least four of the coal miners that were killed in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in April.

According to published reports, one of the deals already has received court approval and hearings on two settlements were scheduled for Aug. 24.

The terms of the settlements have not been made public and Boone Circuit Judge William S. Thompson has sealed all records related to the deals.

None of the families in the four settlements had actually filed wrongful death suits against Massey or its subsidiary, Performance Coal, which operated the Upper Big Branch Mine.

Only one wrongful death suit has been filed so far, which was on behalf of the Estate of William Griffith. Several other families have retained attorneys, who have been investigating the explosion and preparing for possible litigation.

Thompson has already approved a settlement with the Estate of Rick Lane.

Petitions for approval of settlement with the families of Timmy Davis Sr., Rex Mullins and James Mooney were filed Aug. 11 and are pending in Boone Circuit Court, according to court records.

Massey reportedly offered Upper Big Branch families settlements of $3 million each.

Twenty-nine miners died in the April 5 mine explosion. Mine safety experts believe the explosion was likely caused by an ignition of methane gas and made far worse by a buildup of highly explosive coal dust.

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