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West Virginia Miner Wives Lose Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against USA

Posted on Feb 26, 2011
The West Virginia wrongful death lawsuit filed against the United States by two widows has been dismissed by a judge who said that the mining company that employed their husbands was responsible for their death, not federal safety officials.

The WV wrongful death lawsuit involves the deaths of two miners in a fire that took place in 2006. In the mining accident, 47-year-old Ellery Hatfield and 33-year-old Don Bragg died of carbon monoxide poisoning on January 19 at the Aracoma Alma Mine in Melville, West Virginia.

The accident took place when a conveyor belt in the Logan County mining complex caught on fire, filling the miners escape route with smoke and making it difficult for the men to escape. While most of the miners found their way to safety by holding hands and making their way to the surface together. Hatfield and Bragg became disoriented and soon succumbed to the smoke and fumes. Seven miners were injured. 

In 2008, the widows of the two miners settled a wrongful death lawsuit against Massey Energy after an investigation revealed that the mining company was negligent in keeping the conveyor free of combustible debris and in keeping the escape route’s fresh air intake separate from the air near the conveyer belt. The two widows, Delorice Bragg and Freda Hatfield, then tried to sue the Mine Safety and Health Administration for wrongful death, saying that the federal organization should have caught the safety violations before the accident took place.

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