Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Claudia and Brandon Erickson, daughter-in-law and son of Don Erickson, who died in Crandall Canyon Mine, attend news conference about filing of suit against owners.

An attorney representing Murray Energy is firing back against allegations in a lawsuit filed by survivors of six men killed, and two others injured, in last August's Crandall Canyon Mine disasters.

The suit was filed Wednesday in 3rd District Court, alleging several companies have responsibilities for the coal "bump" of Aug. 6, 2007, that killed six miners or left them trapped to die in the debris. Three others were killed and several injured 10 days later during the rescue attempt.

The suit was filed on behalf of the survivors of those killed Aug. 6 — Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez — plus two of the rescuers who were injured on Aug. 16, Joseph Randy Bouldin and Casey Metcalf.

Bouldin and Metcalf were said to have been seriously injured but are doing better.

Defendants are Murray Energy Corp., UtahAmerican Energy Inc., Andalex Resources Inc., all entities in Murray's half-ownership of the mine; Agapito Associates Inc., the mine owners' consulting company; Intermountain Power Agency and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The department is part of the IPA consortium, which is the other half-owner.

Three other men — Dale Black, Gary Jensen and Brandon Kimber — were killed Aug. 16 while trying to rescue the six. Those three are not included in the suit, but Black's wife, Wendy, and at least one other are expected to join as plaintiffs soon, attorney Colin King said in a news conference Wednesday.

Kevin Anderson, shareholder at the law firm Fabian & Clendenin, Salt Lake City, released a statement Wednesday afternoon charging the lawsuit has "numerous false statements of fact included simply to sensationalize this matter and vilify the companies and Mr. Robert E. Murray." The firm represents Murray Energy Corp., UtahAmerican Energy Inc. and Andalex Resources Inc.

The lawsuits by survivors were expected, and it is anticipated that the defendants will defend themselves vigorously.

"We do, though, want to be clear on a critical point — we grieve with the families and hold no ill will toward them," Anderson wrote.

"Indeed, from the beginning we have assisted the families in making sure all of their basic needs were met. We have also aided them and their attorneys in successfully processing life insurance and workers' compensation claims. We understand that the loss of their loved ones and the deep hurt they feel all add up to their desire to do something."

Anderson said the firm has had little time to review the lawsuit but said that it contains false statements intended to sensationalize and vilify.

Fabian & Clendenin is especially perplexed that the suit was filed in Salt Lake County and not where the miners worked and lived, nor where the mine is located. He charged that was done to take advantage of the Salt Lake area media because that is the "biggest forum to smear my clients, as well as Mr. Murray, with half-truths and innuendo, to achieve (the plaintiff's) financial goal ...

"Most of the allegations are blatantly false and unnecessarily hurtful," Anderson said. "Much of what the attorneys complain about relates to events that preceded or were in play prior to my client's purchase of the mine."

The suit's statements about the rescue attempts are wrong, he wrote. The companies, and particularly their owner, Bob Murray, "did an outstanding job during the rescue effort under the most stressful circumstances, and those persons who were present and actually know the facts overwhelmingly verify this."

What happened at the mine was a "horribly tragic and completely unforeseen event of immense and unprecedented magnitude," Anderson added. "Our clients did not cause this."

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