Aracoma miners settle lawsuits with Massey

LOGAN -- Nine miners who sued Massey Energy over injuries they sustained in the 2006 Aracoma mine fire in Logan County reached settlements with the company for an undisclosed amount. The January 2006 fire at Aracoma Alma No. 1 mine left two men dead. The nine survivors claimed they suffered smoke inhalation and long-term emotional injuries because of the fire. The nine miners filed individual suits in 2007, claiming Massey Energy deliberately placed them in an unsafe work environment. The settlements were reached in early October, before the scheduled trial in Logan Circuit Court, but the terms of the settlements were not made public. In 2008, Massey's Aracoma Coal Co. subsidiary agreed to plead guilty to 10 criminal mine-safety violations and pay a total of $4.2 million in criminal and civil fines in connection with the fire. Five Aracoma Coal foremen also pleaded guilty to criminal mine safety violations. The deals also came after a ruling by Logan Circuit Judge Roger Perry that allowed the miners to use guilty pleas entered by Massey's Aracoma Coal Co. subsidiary and five of the mine's foremen as evidence. Tim Bailey, a Charleston attorney who represented eight of the miners, said he believes they were able to achieve a result that allows the miners to move on with their lives and take care of their families. Bailey said the settlement resolved all of the civil lawsuits related to the mine fire. The mine fire occurred when a conveyor belt in the mine caught fire. The miners claimed that they ran into thick, black smoke in the escape tunnel, which obscured their vision, and ultimately led to the deaths of Ellery Hatfield and Don Bragg, who became separated from the group. Massey Energy spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said the settlements were worked out and funded by Massey's insurance carriers. Massey's general counsel, Shane Harvey, declined to comment.

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