Saturday, September 29, 2001

Victim's family sues coal companies

The Associated Press

        PIKEVILLE, Ky. — The family of a Pike County woman who drowned in a flash flood Aug. 3 has filed a lawsuit against two coal companies, claiming drain pipes they installed on Little Robinson Creek contributed to the disaster.

        Pike County Circuit Judge Charles E. Lowe Jr. on Wednesday scheduled the case for trial Feb. 20.

        Andrea Hopkins was swept away by floodwaters after stepping out of a car that had stalled in high water on a rural road along the creek near Virgie. It took rescue workers four days to find her body.

        Ms. Hopkins' family claims in the suit that Premier Elkhorn Coal Co. and Sheep Fork Energy Inc. were negligent when they installed drain pipes across the creek. The suit claims the pipes couldn't carry the water, and caused the roadway to be flooded, according to the Appalachian News-Express.

        Ms. Hopkins' husband, Jerry Joseph Hopkins, filed the wrongful death suit in Pike County Circuit Court. His two children also are named as plaintiffs.

        The drains were installed in a “negligent, careless and reckless manner, which caused flooding of the road near the creek whenever there is a significant amount of rain,” the family claims in the suit.

        Pikeville attorney Sid Trivette said the drain pipes became plugged with debris, stopping the flow of water.

        Pikeville attorney Russell Davis Jr., representing the coal companies, said in court documents that Ms. Hopkins was guilty of negligence and carelessness when she got out of her car in the raging water.

        Had she not done that, Mr. Davis contended, she would not have died.

        Mr. Davis also claimed that Ms. Hopkins' death was due in part to the negligence and carelessness of unknown third parties, plus an unusually heavy rainfall.


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- Victim's family sues coal companies