Families of two more workers who died in the Sago Mine disaster have settled their lawsuits with International Coal Group. The estates of Fred Ware and Marty Bennett reached the settlements with ICG subsidiary Wolf Run Mining in the suits filed in a West Virginia State Court. Details of the settlements are confidential. Thus far, six Sago families have settled lawsuits over the deadly January 2006 mine explosion. Wrongful death cases filed against Wolf Run and ICG by six other Sago victims’ families are still pending.

On January 2, 2006, at about 6:30 p.m., an explosion from a sealed underground tunnel ripped through the Sago Mine. Terry Helms, a fire boss, died soon after the blast from carbon monoxide poisoning. Surrounded by smoke and toxic fumes, 12 other miners took shelter behind a makeshift barricade. Eleven of them died before rescuers reached them more than 40 hours later. Only Randal McCloy Jr. survived. McCloy, and the families of 11 of the miners who died, filed suit against Wolf Run, ICG and a variety of mine contractors.

Thus far, McCloy and the families of miners James Bennett, Terry Helms and Davis Lewis have reached other settlements. Confidential settlements have also been entered into between most of the Sago families and two ICG suppliers, Burrell Mining Products and Raleigh Mine and Industrial Supply. Burrell manufactured concrete foam blocks used to seal abandoned areas of the mine and Raleigh distributed the blocks.

Cases are still pending against some ICG contractors and suppliers, including CSE Corp., which made the emergency breathing devices that was said to have malfunctioned during the disaster. Federal investigators pointed to a lightning strike as the “most likely” ignition source for the Sago explosion. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded that stronger seals, proper methane monitoring and the removal of a pump cable from the sealed area where the explosion occurred could have prevented the disaster. Some found it sort of strange that MSHA investigators failed to cite ICG or Wolf Run with any violations contributing to the accident. Lawsuits filed by the families cited a long string of safety violations prior to the disaster, the lack of required anti-lightning equipment, lax methane monitoring and poor construction of the mine seals.

Source: The Charleston Gazette

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