Aracoma lawsuits plague Massey Energy

A THIRD lawsuit resulting from a 2006 belt fire that killed two at Massey Energy's Aracoma operation in West Virginia was filed in circuit court this week.

Donna Schmidt

According to local newspaper the Charleston Gazette, Jonah Rose's suit against Massey Energy, Massy Coal Services and Aracoma Coal claims that he inhaled smoke and toxic chemicals that will cause long-term health problems, and that he has already been diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and cognitive disorders.

Another lawsuit was filed in July on behalf of six other survivors. The families of the two miners who perished - Ellery Elvis Hatfield, 46, and Don Israel Bragg, 33 - are suing for wrongful death. Rose's legal representatives are the same ones arguing for the other surviving workers in their separate filing, the paper noted.

Representatives for the operator could not be reached by ILN for comment Thursday.

In March, Massey was ordered to pay a still-unsurpassed $US1.5 million fine by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration after its investigation found 25 violations of required health and safety laws at the mine that contributed to the incident.

"The number and severity of safety violations at the mine at the time of the fire demonstrated reckless disregard for safety, warranting the highest fine MSHA has levied for a fatal coal mining accident," assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Richard Stickler said at the time.

Massey Energy responded to the statement, noting it would consider the agency's findings as part of its own investigation.

"As Massey Energy has previously stated, it does appear that there were conditions at Aracoma at the time of the fire that did not meet Massey Energy standards," the operator said.

"The conditions appear to have occurred despite rigorous requirements for safety examinations and inspections for underground mines."