CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County judge on Wednesday approved wrongful death lawsuit settlements between mine owners and the families of six of the coal miners who died in the Sago Mine Disaster.
Circuit Judge Charles King also signed off on several other settlements of suits brought by family members other than those who were administering the estates of the disaster victims.
"That concludes this entire litigation, as I understand it, resulting from this terribly unfortunate tragedy," King said after approving the settlements.
Terms of the deals were kept confidential, and the settlements come as the sixth anniversary approaches of the mine explosion that killed 12 workers and started a series of five major U.S. mining accidents in West Virginia, Kentucky and Utah.
Morgantown lawyer Al Karlin said that no settlement could truly end the matter for clients like his -- the families of Sago miners Tom Anderson, Jesse Jones, Jerry Groves and George "Junior" Hamner.
"This is a somber moment," Karlin said. "When a case like this is settled, it's too easy to forget what it was all about. No settlement can really resolve what the families are left with -- the holes in their lives."
Karlin said the families had hoped Sago would lead to mine safety reforms that would protect other coal miners, but spent the last few years watching other families suffer at the Aracoma and Upper Big Branch mines in West Virginia, the Darby Mine in Kentucky and the Crandall Canyon operation in Utah.
"In some ways [safety conditions] are better today, but in some ways we're still facing the problems of safety in coal mines," Karlin added.
Steve Annand, a lawyer for other families, said the litigation "has been a long, hard course" for the families, but that he hopes the settlements bring "some closure."
Other families who resolved cases Wednesday against mine operator Wolf Run Mining were those of miners Jackie Weaver and Marshall Winans.