West Virginia Record

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Coal mine fire suit settled

By John O'Brien | Nov 17, 2008


LOGAN - The civil lawsuit brought by the widows of two men who died in the 2006 Aracoma coal mine fire has been settled mid-trial.

Don Bragg and Ellery Hatfield died Jan. 19, 2006, at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County, after being separated from the rest of their crew when the mine filled with smoke. A conveyor belt had caught fire.

The suit, filed by Delorice Bragg and Fred Hatfield, said Massey Energy should have known that a missing air control wall would allow smoke to fill escape routes.

Also named as defendants were Massey subsidiary A.T. Massey Coal Co., Aracoma Coal Co. Inc. and Massey CEO Don Blankenship.

According to a report by The Associated Press, the suit was settled Monday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

In the 18-page complaint, the women accused Blankenship of "personally engendering a corporate attitude of indifference and hostility towards safety measures which stood in the way of profit."

The complaint cites a memo Blankenship sent in October 2005 to all deep mine superintendents.

"If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e. - build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal," the complaint quotes the memo. "This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that coal pays the bills."

Blankenship said the memo was taken out of context.

The suit also said that management's approach led to unsafe work conditions that led to the deaths of Bragg and Hatfield.

"The Massey Defendants' corporate practices, and this memorandum specifically, were willful, wanton, and reckless towards federal and state safety laws, and towards human life and dignity," the complaint states.

Miners injured in the fire also filed suit against Massey.

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