The family of one of the 301 workers killed in the Soma disaster has filed a compensation lawsuit against the mine's operator and the state-run Turkish Coal Enterprises (TKİ) regional institution in a first case of its kind since the May 13 incident, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Lawyers representing Gamze Degirmen, who lost her husband, Ismail Degirmen, in the disaster, have argued that the company committed clear negligence when it failed to stop production or take safety measures despite indicators showing that levels of carbon monoxide gas inside the mine were increasing.
In the lawsuit petition, lawyers also stressed that Ismail Degirmen had been complaining and warning about the conditions in the mine in the two months before the disaster. He had particularly stressed that coal particles would blaze due to excessive heat, causing burn injuries to miners, according to the petition.
"The deflagrations of coal and fires were known by all the officials. Although stopping the production and taking precautions for labor safety were needed, the defendants did not do it so as to reach the production target and make a profit, causing this disastrous accident," the petition said.
The fire erupted after coal inside the mine started burning, resulting in the spread of highly toxic carbon monoxide gas.
Following the accident, it was also revealed that most of the workers' individual gas masks had failed to work and that the mine did not possess any appropriate refuge chamber.
The Degirmen family's lawyers stressed that the incident was entirely predictable and avoidable. "The crisis management from the start of the incident has been conducted in a state of panic and unconsciously, which increased the number of deaths," the petition said.
The family has demanded 390,000 Turkish Liras in compensation from the Soma mining company and 3,000 liras from the TKİ in a move that could lead other families to file lawsuits.
The company's chairman, Can Gurkan, and general manager, Ramazan Dogru, are still under arrest along with several other officials while the owner, Alp Gurkan, is being probed on fraud charges.
The investigation into the disaster has raised eyebrows after it was found out that the expert who inspected the mine for the prosecution, Ahmet Erturk, was the husband of the Labor Ministry's expert, Ayshe Erturk.
The accident also drew much attention to the subcontracting system that has been spreading across the country, increasing labor safety risks in many sectors.