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Pa. Mine Survivor Sues Owners, Operators

May 17, 2003

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) _ One of the men who survived after being trapped in a flooded Pennsylvania coal mine last summer filed suit Friday, claiming the mine’s owners and operators should have known the dangers posed by an abandoned shaft nearby.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of miner John Phillippi Jr. and his family is the first stemming from the mining accident.

In July, Phillippi and eight others were trapped in the Quecreek Mine after inadvertently breaking through to an adjacent, abandoned mine filled with millions of gallons of water. During the next three days, the men huddled in a partly flooded chamber, waiting to be rescued.

Because of the ordeal, Phillippi has suffered anxiety, depression and sleeplessness, the suit says. Under Pennsylvania rules, the lawsuit cannot request a specific dollar amount.

``They are not the same people they were when they went to work that day,″ said Melissa Phillippi, John’s wife. She said the accident has affected her and their son as well.

Phillippi’s attorney, Howard Messer, said the area where the breach occurred had been mined 40 years earlier, although that did not appear on a mine map. Messer said the fact that operators failed to share or acknowledge the extent of the old mining amounts to negligence.

The defendants include PBS Coals, which leases the Quecreek Mine property through another company, and Consol Energy Inc., which once owned the property where the breach occurred.

PBS Coals said in a statement it could not comment before reviewing the allegations but was confident it ``searched and relied upon all credible sources of information in making our decisions″ to mine in the area. A spokesman for Consol refused to comment, saying he hadn’t seen the lawsuit.

Workers’ compensation rules bar the miners’ employer, Black Wolf Coal Co., which contracted to mine Quecreek, from being sued.

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