The father of one of the three workers killed in a Louisiana packaging facility explosion two months ago has now filed suit in Houston.
Beaumont attorney Brent Coon is representing Joe Gooch, whose son Jody Gooch was killed in the tragic explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) plant in DeRidder, Louisiana in February.
The case is against PCA, the owner of the facility, and Elite Industrial Services of Pasadena, Jody Gooch’s employer at the time of the incident.
Joe Gooch is suing the companies as legal administrator on behalf of the estate of Jody Gooch as well as for his own damages.
Here is more from a press release sent by Coon on Tuesday:
“There is nothing like the love of your children, and it tears me up to know that my son lost his life in a highly avoidable tragedy at work. We hope that this lawsuit will shed more light on what happened and reduce the likelihood of it ever happening again. It was very upsetting to learn that PCA apparently had something like this occur only a few years ago at another facility and didn’t do much, if anything, to keep it from happening again here. A parent should never have to bury their own child and we hope this lawsuit and investigation will change the way these companies do business. It seems like these days all they care about is making money and more money and very little about worker safety” says Joe Gooch. “Even though my son was all grown up, he just about still lived here with us and it is hard adjusting to the fact that he won’t be coming home any more. You just can’t replace that hole it leaves in your heart. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who sustained losses in this terrible tragedy and even though I am a forgiving person, if this happened like another explosion I heard about at PCA a few years ago, someone should go to jail."
The incident, which killed three workers and injured several others, is still under governmental investigation by not only Occupational Safety and Health Administration staff, but representatives of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), a highly skilled team of investigators based out of Washington D.C. that only take on a select few high profile tragedies in the industrial sector at any given time, usually involving multiple fatalities.
The CSB has just released the first preliminary statements on their investigation and believes that the incident had to do with “hot work” igniting vapors on a containment vessel, Coon says. Welding activity may have ignited combustible vapors emanating from by product liquids that had been left in the tank at the time the work was being performed, according to Coon.
“Once again my firm has been called upon to help a family as a result of tragic and senseless loss of life in an industrial operation. Welding is commonplace and workers should NEVER be made to work in an environment with welding activity anywhere around volatile vapors or combustible liquids. We will work with our team of independent experts and compare findings with the governmental investigations, which will collectively leave us with a clear picture of what happened. It goes without saying that this should not have happened, and as always, was something avoidable had the companies involved taken the appropriate steps to prepare the worksite safely before work commenced. If in fact these companies had hot work going on when they knew the containment vessels had not been cleaned and purged, they should not only be held liable in our civil courts, but face the scrutiny of a grand jury for criminal charges. Every manager and supervisor at every facility knows that you don’t engage hot work anywhere around potentially combustible areas, on containment vessels that have not been cleaned or on lines that have not been properly isolated and purged.
It is early in this investigation into not only what happened on this occasion, but what the companies involved had in place as hazard analysis protocols, process safety systems and proper permitting. It is also disturbing to learn that something very similar occurred at another PCA facility only a few years ago which also killed three workers and little was apparently done subsequently to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident elsewhere in their system. This would be a disturbing safety culture failure. We have worked with the CSB and OSHA as lead counsel in the BP Texas City explosion in 2005, the Gulf Oil Spill and more recently in the multiple fatality incident at the DuPont plant in LaPorte, Texas, and all of those investigations revealed wide gaps in the safety culture of the companies involved. I am very confident that our joint investigations will get to the bottom of this and identify not only all the mistakes made by these companies, but also who specifically authorized them and why this work was not protected better.
“As a public policy law firm with a high degree of specialization on these types of events, it is most disheartening to see that they keep occurring, often due to the same root causes, and almost always due to money factors driving the bottom line and management decisions cutting corners to save money and finish projects quicker. You cant put profits over safety, cut corners and put lives at risk. What is equally tragic right now is that the CSB, which is the ONLY governmental agency with skill sets to investigate these types of events in the public sector and is heading up this investigation may be shut down by the Trump administration, which has targeted the CSB for closure. The CSB does incredible work on a shoe string budget of only a few million dollars a year and it would be asinine to shut it down for alleged “budgetary concerns” when the entire program is funded for amounts that are a small fraction of what is paid for security to the First Lady just to live in New York City instead of the White House.
I try to stay of politics, but it is nauseating every time the corporations win the White House and immediately try to gut the agencies that try to protect our work forces. Hopefully enough people will complain about this and it will get enough media coverage to ultimately deter the White House and Congress from getting rid of this critically necessary agency, which as a result of their work product invariably save many lives in our industrial sector."
DERIDDER, LOUISIANA — A three-person investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to the scene of an incident that killed three workers and reportedly injured seven on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) plant in DeRidder, Louisiana.
According to initial reports, the explosion took place while contractors performed welding on a tank during a facility shut down. The explosion was powerful enough to cause the tank to fly and land in a different area of the plant. Welding is one of several types of “hot work” – or spark-producing operations - that can ignite fires or explosions. Most hot work incidents result in the ignition of combustible materials or the ignition of structures or debris near the hot work.
Victims in the explosion were identified by local authorities as; William Rolls, Jr., 32, Sedrick Stallworth, 42, and Jody L. Gooch, 40. PCA officials say that all three were contractors at the plant.
Gooch was from Newton County, according to Sheriff Billy Rowles,
From CSB Chairperson Vanessa Sutherland:
The CSB has investigated many hot work accidents across the country, including a 2008 explosion that killed three workers at a different PCA plant in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.” said . “Hot work incidents are one of the most common causes of worker deaths we see at the CSB, but also one of the most readily preventable.
The CSB continues to be concerned about the frequency of dangerous hot work incidents and has added safe hot work practices to the agency’s Drivers of Critical Chemical Safety Change Program, a list of key chemical safety advocacy initiatives.
Following the deadly 2008 explosion at the PCA plant in Wisconsin, the CSB issued a safety bulletin on the hazards of welding and other hot work entitled “Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths during Hot Work In and Around Tanks.” The agency also released a safety video called “Dangers of Hot Work,” which presents the findings from that bulletin.
The CSB is an independent federal agency whose mission is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment. The agency’s board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical incidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
PREVIOUS REPORTING: An explosion killed three and injured seven at the PCA Container Board Mill just off of Highway 190 on the west side of nearby DeRidder, Louisiana.
One person had been reported missing, but is now accounted for, according to Louisiana state police.
A Louisiana state trooper tells KFDM that of the seven injuries, six of those are minor and one moderate.
Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Joe Toler said the incident occurred at 11:10 a.m. Wednesday.
PCA released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
At approximately 11:10 a.m. CST, there was an explosion at our DeRidder, LA paper mill. We know it involved work being performed in the pulp mill area, and there were contractor fatalities involved. Our investigation with authorities and notification of families is our priority now. We will release further information as it becomes available.
Packaging Corporation of America Hot Work Explosion
Location: Deridder, LA
Incident Occurred On: 02/08/2017
Incident Type: Hot Work - Explosion and Fire
On February 8, 2017, three contractors were fatally injured and seven contractors sustained injuries in an explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America facility in DeRidder, LA. The fatally injured contractors were conducting hot work activities near a tank which contained a flammable atmosphere and ultimately exploded.
The CSB's investigation is currently ongoing.
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