More than a dozen family members filled one side of King's courtroom, as lawyers asked for court approval, carefully avoiding mentioning publicly the amounts of the confidential deals.
Previous wrongful death settlements were reached by the families of miners James Bennett, Marty Bennett, Terry Helms, David Lewis and Fred Ware. The family of one miner who died, Martin Toler, did not sue. Sago survivor Randal McCloy Jr. also previously settled a suit over his injuries.
At the time of the disaster, the Sago Mine was owned by International Coal Group. Earlier this year, ICG was purchased by St. Louis-based Arch Coal.
At about 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2006, an explosion ripped through the Sago Mine south of Buckhannon. One miner, fireboss Terry Helms, 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 McCloy survived. Before the deaths last year of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, Sago was the worst coal-mining disaster in West Virginia in nearly 40 years.
Federal investigators pointed to a lightning strike as the "most likely" ignition source for the blast, which occurred inside a sealed area of the Sago Mine.
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. MSHA did not cite ICG or its subsidiary, Wolf Run, with any violations contributing to the accident.
Lawsuits filed by the families had 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.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.