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Texas A&M settles decade-old lawsuit over deaths

    COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M University agreed Tuesday to pay $2.1 million to settle a lawsuit over the collapse of a bonfire tower that killed 12 people and injured dozens more nearly a decade ago.
    The families of four students killed and several of those who were injured sued the university and construction contractors hired to help build the 59-foot-tall tower of logs that fell apart in November 1999.
    After the collapse, the university prohibited students from building the bonfire on its property — a tradition for the Texas A&M-Texas football game going back to 1909. Since then, the fire has been held off campus by students and alumni.
    Under the settlement reached Tuesday in Brazos County court, the university agreed to pay $2.1 million to the victims and their families and to have engineering oversight if the university ever decides to allow future bonfires on campus. University spokesman Jason Cook said the university will pay $500,000, with the remaining money coming from its insurers.
    A&M President Elsa Murano, who took over earlier this year, said in a statement that no decision would be made on whether to allow the bonfire back on campus until she has discussed the collapse with those most affected by it and reviewed the event’s history.
    ‘‘It is our hope that today’s announcement will help provide some closure to the tragic event for these individuals, as well as for the entire Aggie family, and certainly including those who were injured,’’ she said.
    The school had fought the lawsuit, claiming it was immune from such suits, but a court of appeals allowed the lawsuit to continue, and the A&M Board of Regents authorized the settlement Monday.
    Claims against the construction firm that provided a crane and the crane operators are still pending; the university is a third-party defendant in those cases.
    Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

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