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Miner’s Families Sue Over Death Payments Delay

(CN) - The families of miners killed in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia sued the owner of the mine, saying it has reneged on $1.5 million in payments to the survivors of the tragedy.

In a lawsuit filed in the federal court in Beckley, W. Va., administrators for the estates of Grover Skeens, Charles Davis and Cory Davis say Alpha Natural Resources and Massey Energy Co., agreed to pay the restitution to avoid criminal prosecution for the fire and explosion that killed 29 minors.

Massey Energy owned the mine at the time of the disaster, and then was acquired by Alpha Natural Resources, one of its competitors, on June 1, 2011.

Six months later, the plaintiffs say, Alpha Natural entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the federal government to shield itself from claims stemming from the Upper Big Branch explosion.

But despite agreeing to pay restitution to the families of the dead miner, at least nine of those families have received nothing from Alpha Natural Resources, the plaintiffs claim.

They say no one ever told them the agreement had been made.

When the Upper Big Branch mine exploded on April 5, 2010, a sonic blast carrying show waves, debris, projectiles and poisonous gases, among other items, shot down the mine shafts and out various portals.

"The effects of the explosion in the immediate are caused death to many miners, including without limitation, Grover Skeens, Charles T. Davis and Cory Davis, as well as six other miners whose families did not receive restitution under the Non-Prosecution Agreement," the plaintiffs say.

The plaintiffs seek an order directing that payments be made to the miners' estates.

They are represented by J. Michael Ranson and G. Patrick Jacobs of Charleston, W. Va.

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