Southern Explosions Spur Worker’s Lawsuits

Workplace injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm affirm that experts recently reported that ammonium nitrate was the actual cause of the fire and explosions that killed 14 people and injured 200 more at the West Fertilizer plant in Texas. Another explosion, which took place on the Mobile River in Alabama, is now the subject of two lawsuits filed against the companies involved.

Ammonium nitrate is a type of dry fertilizer that is mixed with other similar compounds, such as phosphate, and added to plants to enhance growth. It is combustible, and was, in fact, used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings that killed nearly 170 people.

The April 17, 2013 blast in West, Texas caused about $100 million in damages, not only to the factory, but to homes and businesses surrounding the facility. The explosion was preceded by a fire, which brought fire fighters to the scene that were subsequently caught in the blast. The fire marshal’s office headed the investigation along with the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency.

Over 400 interviews have been conducted so far by investigators, although the exact location of the fire’s origin within the plant is still unknown. At least seven lawsuits have already been filed against Adair Grain, Inc, which owns the fertilizer factory. Plaintiffs in these cases are alleging negligence by Adair Grain employees and are seeking millions of dollars in damages.

Similar lawsuits are being filed in Mobile, Alabama after seven barge explosions rocked the Mobile River in late April 2013. One of the suits, filed by an injured employee, is naming four companies and is seeking unspecified damages.

The plaintiff, George Erickson, remains in serious condition at USA Medical Center. He is suffering from second-and third-degree burns on over half of his body and must be constantly sedated. He is unable to manage his affairs due to his catastrophic injuries so his lawsuit was filed by a Mobile County Conservator who was appointee to handle his affairs. Erickson was working for Oil Recovery Company of Alabama and was cleaning two oil barges at the time of the blast.

The first lawsuit filed as a result of this explosion was by injured worker Casey Tyson, who was working on one of the tugboat electronic systems near the explosion. He was taken to the University of South Alabama Medical Center and later transferred to a burn unit closer to his home in Dallas.

Tyson’s suit names Oil Recovery Co., AEP River Operations, D&S Marine Service, and Kirby Inland Marine as defendants. There was a third worker injured at the time of the explosion, Justin Benoit, who was working for AEP and who is also still in the hospital in serious condition. The first explosion was reported to be caused by workers venting oil vapors from the tanks of the barges when an outside source ignited the vapors.

The ironically named “Safety Runner” tugboat was trolling, engine on, next to the barges at the time of the explosion and is regarded as a possible ignition source. There is currently a tremendous effort going into the investigation on the Mobile River, conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, Mobile Fire-Rescue Department, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Workplace accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on investigation finding surrounding both the Alabama and Texas explosions. If you or someone close to you was similarly injured in a workplace accident, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for any lost wages, medical bills, and emotional distress.


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