Wrongful Death Claims Settled in Two Sago Mine Disaster Cases in West Virginia | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The West Virginia Gazette reports that two more Sago Mine Disaster families have settled their lawsuits, although the details of the settlements were not released – court records in the Kanawha Circuit Courthouse only give basic facts of the settlements.

The two miners, both of whom died in the accident in Buckhannon, were Fred Ware and Marty Bennett. The company that settled the lawsuit was ICG subsidiary Wolf Run Mining. These are the fourth and fifth settlements to take place since the incident took place two years ago. Six other wrongful death cases are still pending with the mining company.

There are a number of other confidential settlements involving the families of the mine explosion victims and other involved companies tied with ICG.

The incident took place on January 2, 2006, when an underground explosion trapped thirteen miners in a tunnel in the Sago Mine. An investigation revealed that a lightening strike was the most likely cause of the explosion. One man, Terry Helms, died soon after the initial blast from carbon monoxide poisoning, while 12 other men waited, trapped, for rescuers. Almost two days after the blast, 11 or the 12 men were dead, with only Randal McCLoy Junior still breathing at the time of the rescue. It was the worst mining disaster in West Virginia since 1968, and the worst mining accident in the United States since 2001, when 12 miners died in Alabama.

To this point, the lawsuits have centered around numerous safety violations prior to the explosion, the lack of any anti-lightening equipment, and poorly-functioning seals. There were also not enough emergency oxygen packs that were working – a safety precaution that could have saved lives.

“We will vigorous defend ourselves against the remaining complaints,” the company said in last year’s annual report.

The Sago mine closed permanently after the incident.

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