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Judge: No mining rights to Flight 93 site

| Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A Somerset County company does not have coal mining rights to land beneath the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose said Svonavec Inc. of Somerset failed to prove it had mining rights under the memorial site when the federal government took the land in September 2009 through eminent domain.

“Defendant relies primarily on missing, unrecorded, and incomplete documents to support its chain of title for the alleged coal leases,” Ambrose said in the order issued on Tuesday. “... Svonavec Inc. has not shown that it possessed any right to mine the coal underlying the property.”

Svonavec, a coal and quarry company, owned about 275 acres of land that the government took, including six acres where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

An attempt to reach the company on Saturday evening was not successful. A spokesperson for the Families of Flight 93, a nonprofit organization representing the Flight 93 passengers and crew, also could not be contacted.

The 40 passengers and crew members on Flight 93 are credited with storming the cockpit and preventing terrorists from crashing the plane into landmarks in Washington. The plane crashed in a field in Stonycreek. All aboard were killed.

The memorial will be built in phases. The first phase, dedicated last year, includes a Memorial Plaza, which overlooks the crash site.

The crash site, called Sacred Ground, is off-limits to the public. It will be left untouched and is considered the final resting place of the passengers and crew. Only family members will have access, though the public can view it from the Memorial Plaza.

The names of the passengers and crew are inscribed on a white marble wall that follows the path of the doomed plane.

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

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