Report says partial settlement reached in Texas A&M bonfire tragedy

Friday, November 19th 2004, 8:20 am
By: News On 6

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ The families of seven of the people killed or injured in the Texas A&M University bonfire collapse will share $4.25 million in a partial settlement of a lawsuit, an attorney said.

The settlement resolves their claims against 25 student leaders who oversaw construction of the massive stack of logs that collapsed five years ago this week, killing 12 and injuring 27.

The deal, involving the families of four students who died and three who were injured, is in the first resolution of claims, attorney Darrell Keith, who represents five of the families, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The bonfire student leaders wanted to return to their lives and their household insurance companies wanted resolution, said Dallas attorney Chuck Aris, who represents four of them.

The bonfire was a revered Aggie tradition before the school's annual football matchup against rival University of Texas.

The 59-foot-high tiered stack, which used more than 5,000 logs, collapsed in the early morning of Nov. 18, 1999. Most of the victims were students. An investigation blamed flawed construction and lack of adequate supervision.

The lawsuit still has 36 other defendants, including 10 other bonfire leaders, as well as former Texas A&M President Ray Bowen, the Texas Aggie Bonfire Committee, and two companies that provided cranes and crane operators.

Texas A&M is no longer a defendant in the lawsuit.

Mediation continues between those not named in the settlement. A trial has been set for March 28.

Texas A&M President Robert Gates has said there would be no discussion of future bonfires until all lawsuits are resolved.

On Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, a granite and bronze memorial was dedicated. About 50,000 people attended the ceremony.

``Their souls and bodies are not here, but the spirit they all shared is very much here,'' said Jerry Ebanks, whose son Michael died.

The $5 million memorial's centerpiece is a circle of 12 rectangular arches, one for each victim. The arches are connected by 27 large stones that represent the injured.