Friday, April 7, 2017

DOGS GOING POSTAL: Los Angeles topped the 2016 list with 80 attacks on postal workers, followed by Houston with 62 and Cleveland with 60.

Houston made the 2016 list with 62 attacks on postal workers. (AP)

Booming online retail sales are good news for the U.S. Postal Service, but its carriers are incurring a cost: more dog bites.

Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year and the highest in three decades, as internet shopping booms and consumers increasingly demand seven-day-a-week package delivery and groceries dropped at their doorstep. The high for attacks dated back to the 1980s, at more than 7,000, before maulings by pit bulls and other potentially aggressive dogs became a public issue.

Los Angeles topped the 2016 list with 80 attacks on postal workers, followed by Houston with 62 and Cleveland with 60.

The Postal Service released its annual figures Thursday as part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which begins Sunday.

A longtime cliche of movies, dog biting of mail carriers - or at least dog chasing - is no laughing matter for the post office. Medical expenses and workers' compensation cost the Postal Service millions of dollars each year.

Overall, an estimated 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually, mostly children. In the last year, dog attacks on carriers rose 3 percent. Still, while dog bite claims are rising, there are signs attacks may be less severe: The average cost per claim fell last year by more than 10 percent to $33,230, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm.

"It's always on your mind as a carrier, 'Is there a dog in the area and is it a threat?'" said James Solomon, a 17-year postal carrier. Officially, 2 percent of carriers were bitten last year, but Solomon says every carrier he knows has some kind of "dog experience" to tell, from outrunning to cajoling a territorial pet.

The post office hopes more public awareness will help.

After a 14 percent jump in dog attacks in 2015, the post office launched a "Trip Hazards" app on handheld devices to help warn carriers of potentially hostile dogs. Customers are asked on package pickup applications if there are dogs at their addresses. In extreme cases, residents will be told to pick up mail at a post office until a repeat offender dog is restrained.

"Even good dogs have bad days," said U.S. Postal Service Safety Director Linda DeCarlo in Los Angeles. "Dog bite prevention training and continuing education are important to keep pet owners, pets and those who visit homes - like letter carriers - happy and healthy."

She urges owners to secure their dogs in a separate room before opening the door and to remind family members not to take mail directly from letter carriers in front of their dog, which may view it as a threatening gesture.

Rising dog attacks come amid double-digit increases in the post office's package business. While U.S. population growth means more residences to deliver to, postal carriers are also visiting homes more frequently and at all times of day, with packages or groceries in hand, thanks to agreements struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.

United Parcel Service said its 66,000 deliverers suffered about 900 dog bites last year, a percentage that has remained fairly stable. Spokesman Dan McMackin, a former UPS driver who used to carry dog biscuits to woo surly pets, said he found pit bulls and smaller dog breeds to be more nettlesome than "hunting dogs" - such as Labrador retrievers and beagles - who "don't have much to prove."

FedEx Corp. said it does not collect numbers on dog attacks.

Solomon, who lives in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, said he thought he had learned all the tricks to prevent attacks: watch the dog's mannerisms, use the mail satchel as a shield, or pull out the emergency dog spray if needed - it contains an extract of cayenne pepper.

But last week, those safeguards weren't enough when a woman answered his knock.

"It was three little hot dogs who came out and bit me on the shin," Solomon said, describing dachshunds. "It didn't hurt that much, but it was very aggressive, one after the other."

Robert Lieb, a professor of supply chain management at Northeastern University, said he expects dog attacks to keep increasing. Still, the online industry continues to change, and dogs may prove to be less of a problem if Amazon changes its delivery to a new method: drones.

"The question is whether drones will land or parachute the packages down," said Lieb, a former shipping consultant. "I would see eagles, not dogs, taking out drones."

A large tree fell and crushed a car in Greenville, Delaware during Thursday's storm.

GREENVILLE, Del. (WPVI) -- A tree fell and crushed a car in Greenville, Delaware during Thursday's storm.

That massive tree crushed Victoria Franklin's car with her and her 17-year-old son inside on Barley Mill Road. And just minutes before she saw another tree fall.

A tree fell and crushed a car in Greenville, Delaware during Thursday's storm.
Franklin of Woolwich Township, New Jersey said, "I didn't see anything, I didn't hear anything until after it hit us. And the whole entire hood, the roof of the car was crushed in. We could see tree right above us, part of it inside the car."

Medics transported both mother and son to the hospital with minor injuries after they climbed out of the vehicle.

Franklin was driving, her son was in the passenger seat.

It was around 4 p.m. Thursday after she picked up her son from the Tatnal School to make their trip home to New Jersey.

Storms had just ripped through the Westover Hills section in Greenville, Delaware.

New Castle County police retrieved Franklin's belongings, cell phones and keys.

Franklin says she's still in shock and so is her son.

After we got out of the car, and I looked at it, I just cried, I just cried, because my son and I are very surprised we got out of there," said Franklin.

Most of the power has been restored to the neighborhood.

Workers are on the scene from Verizon to move the tree off the lines.

DelDOT will then clean up the mess.

CALIFORNIA GOV: the drought emergency in California is over, except in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties


California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the drought emergency in California is over, except in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties. (KABC)

Updated 6 mins ago
FRESNO, California (KFSN) -- California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the drought emergency in California is over, except in except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties.

The governor's order that keeps in place conservation measures came as a springtime storm bears down on the waterlogged state.

The drought strained native fish that migrate up rivers, killed millions of trees, and forced farmers in the nation's leading agricultural state to rely heavily on groundwater, with some tearing out orchards. It also dried up wells, forcing hundreds of families in rural areas to drink bottled water and bathe from buckets.

Brown declared the drought emergency in 2014, and officials later ordered mandatory conservation for the first time in state history. Regulators last year relaxed the rules after a rainfall was close to normal.

But monster storms this winter erased nearly all signs of drought, blanketing the Sierra Nevada with deep snow, California's key water source, and boosting reservoirs.

"This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner," Brown said in a statement. "Conservation must remain a way of life."

The governor lifted the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies.

Water conservation will become a way of life in the nation's most populous state, said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, who led conservation planning. Officials already have started charting long-term rules to make California more resilient as climate change makes weather patterns more severe.

"There's a greater appreciation of just how precious water is," she said. "We've got to plan for longer droughts."

Cities and water districts throughout the state will be required to continue reporting their water use each month, said the governor order, which also bans wasteful practices, such as hosing off sidewalks and running sprinklers when it rains.

New rules are expected to permanently ban wasteful practices, such as hosing off sidewalks and watering landscapes in the days after it rains. Officials say they will work aggressively to stop leaks that waste water.

Susan Atkins of the charity Self-Help Enterprises said the drought is not over for more than 900 families who have large water tanks in their yards because their wells dried up during the years long drought.

Most of them are in Tulare County, a farming powerhouse in central California's San Joaquin Valley. Atkins said she still receives calls from people whose wells are running dry and need a tank and bottled water.

"In no way is it over," she said of the drought. "We will run out of money before we run out of people that need help."

ANOTHER DRUNK WRONG-WAY COLLISION: Two female drivers killed in a wrong-way crash on Route 28 in Pittsburgh, PA

Two people killed in wrong-way crash on Route 28

Updated: Apr 6, 2017 - 9:07 PM

PITTSBURGH - Two people were killed early Thursday in a wrong-way crash on Route 28 that closed a section of the road during the morning rush hour.

The crash was reported just after 3:30 a.m. between the 31st Street Bridge and the Heinz plant. 

Police believe the driver of a Kia was outbound in the inbound lanes and struck a Honda head-on. The driver of the Kia, Sidney Cope, 24, of Coraopolis, was killed.

The driver of the Honda, Clara Roberts, 24, of Indiana, was taken to a hospital, where she also died.

"They were both transported to AGH in critical condition," said Emily Shaffer, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh police. "The first victim was pronounced deceased shortly after 6 this morning, the second shortly after 8 this morning."

Roberts was headed to the airport to catch a flight home.

"True to form, family first, she was going home to Texas to see her family for the holiday," said Roberts' colleague, Vince Mercuri. "She was trying to beat the morning rush hour."

Roberts worked in Indiana, Pennsylvania, as a crisis intervention specialist. She was recently accepted to New York University to pursue a law degree.

"She was a tremendous worker, a tremendous person. She's going to be sadly and desperately missed by us at the Open Door," Mercuri said.

Traffic was detoured off Route 28 at the 40th Street Bridge while the accident scene was cleared. All lanes reopened just before 6:30 a.m.

"It caused (a) major traffic incident, and obviously we want to get to the bottom of it," said Dan Cessna of PennDOT. "Any time we have an accident that involves a wrong-way driver, we want to get to the bottom of it. Where did this person get confused, what was the cause of factors that led to the incident, and we will do a full investigation."

The entrance to Route 28 has three signs warning drivers who are going the wrong way. Investigators have not said why Cope either didn't see or ignored the warnings, but Cessna said changes could be made to the road after the investigation.

"We want to get to the bottom of it," Cessna said. "Where did this person get confused? What were the cause and factors that led to the accident?"

From the facebook pages of suspected drunk or drugged driver Sidney Cope


An apparent wrong-way crash on Route 28 early Thursday morning left two women dead, according to police.

The crash happened just after 3:30 a.m. between the 31st Street Bridge and the Heinz Plant, according to Public Safety spokeswoman Emily Schaffer. Officers arrived and found a Kia and Honda involved in a head-on crash with the drivers trapped in both vehicles.

Both women were extricated and taken to Allegheny General Hospital where the driver of the Kia — identified as Sidney Cope, 24, of Coraopolis — was pronounced dead, Schaffer said.

The driver of the Honda — Clara Katherine Roberts, 24, of Pearland, Texas — was pronounced dead several hours later.

Investigators suspect the Kia was heading outbound on Route 28 in an inbound lane and struck the Honda, Schaffer said. The Accident Investigation Unit is continuing to investigate.

The crash shut down Route 28 for several hours. The road reopened about 6:30 a.m.

Speeding female drunk driver killed after she drove the wrong-way along Merrick Road and collided with a box truck in Baldwin, Long Island

BALDWIN, Long Island (WABC) -- A 27-year-old woman was killed in a crash in Baldwin Friday morning.

A car and truck collided at Merrick Road and Gale Avenue just after 1:45 a.m.

A woman appears to have been driving the wrong way on Merrick Road at a high rate of speed when her vehicle collided with a box truck.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 70-year-old driver of the box truck, who works for a church and was making a pickup, was evaluated at a nearby hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Most of the drunk-related driving crashes occur in the early a.m. hours, like this case. 

A car and box truck collided in a horrific crash that left a 27-year-old woman dead on Long Island, according to authorities.

The collision shut down part of Merrick Road near Gale Avenue in Baldwin at shortly before 2 a.m. Friday, police said. The 27-year-old woman was driving very fast westbound in the eastbound lane when she collided with the truck sideways, according to police. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 70-year-old truck driver was making a pickup at a nearby church for the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul when the woman hit him, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Police did not immediately release the woman’s name.

The crash left the car crumpled and authorities are looking into why she was speeding and driving the wrong way.  She was most likely drunk.

One year after the Nottingham Estates subdivision in Maryville, Illinois gas explosion, worker’s death still embroiled in legal dispute

A gas explosion in the Nottingham Estates subdivision in Maryville left flames shooting into the air. Police closed Illinois 162 between Illinois 157 and Illinois 159 and evacuated the area. Jimmy Simmons, Adam Latham Provided

By Kelsey Landis


In the afternoon of April 6, 2016, John Doug Behme, of Worden, was using a construction-grade tiller along Illinois 162 for a planned subdivision when his equipment struck an underground gas pipeline, rupturing it. The gas exploded. Billowing black smoke darkened the partly-sunny spring sky.

Burns covered 70 percent of Behme’s body. Behme, 44, died of his injuries on April 29 in the burn unit of Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, 23 days after the explosion.

Maryville Police Officer Justin Krausz was on patrol when he saw the towering 75-foot flames. After calling in to dispatch, he drove toward the explosion. He got as close as he could, then saw a man emerge from the flames. Despite his injuries, Behme was conscious and walked toward Krausz and Sgt. Brandon Ponce, who had arrived shortly after Krausz. The two helped carry the man a safe distance from the flames.

The burning gas was so hot it melted the road. A year later, Krausz still remembers what happened there every time he drives over the short strip of new pavement. Today, a few model homes sit quietly next to empty lots waiting for construction. A sign reading “Care Free Living” marks the entrance to the subdivision.

But a struggle between Behme’s widow and the parties she holds accountable for his death continues. A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Angela Behme and a review by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are still open a year after the explosion.


The inaugural “Rev It Up In Remembrance” car show for the Doug Behme Foundation will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 27 with awards at 5:30 p.m. The event will take place on East Wall Street in Worden. Free admission. Live music follows show. All proceeds will be used to benefit burn victims and their children and families.

OSHA issued a “serious violation” citation under standards for excavation requirements to Glen Carbon-based Keller Construction, a parent company of The Villas at Nottingham LLC, the subdivision’s developer. The administration suggested a fine of $7,000, but Keller Construction has contested that fine. Because the case remains open, a review by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has not yet been completed, OSHA spokeswoman Rhonda Burke said. The commission is an independent agency that reviews OSHA penalties.

Keller Construction did not return multiple requests for comment.

In June last year, Behme’s widow filed a wrongful-death suit, accusing five parties of being responsible for her husband’s death. The original lawsuit named the following defendants: Ameren Illinois; Keystone Construction and Development, which is connected to Keller Construction; and SMS Engineers.

Angela Behme is seeking an amount that ‘will fairly and justly compensate the family for their loss.’ Thomas Keefe Jr., attorney

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of 13 counts of negligence, claiming they failed to plan, design, locate, survey and direct observation on the subdivision construction project, and failed to ensure proper marking; and failed to investigate the depth of the gas pipeline before excavating, among other accusations. The lawsuit claims the loss of Behme’s love and companionship caused suffering and grief for his loved ones. Angela Behme is seeking an amount that “will fairly and justly compensate the family for their loss,” said Thomas Keefe Jr., the attorney for Angela Behme.

Though the original lawsuit named other limited liability companies tied to Keller Construction, the number of defendants has been pared down to focus on Ameren Illinois and SMS Engineers, an Alton-based engineering and land surveying company, said Keefe.

“We’re pretty certain most of the responsibility, if not all the responsibility, rests with Ameren,” Keefe said.

The Doug Behme Foundation’s inaugural Run/Walk in Remembrance 5K will be held at 9 a.m. on May 27. Packet and T-shirt pick-up and in-person registration from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 26 at The Wild Turkey, 115 E. Wall St., Worden or at 8 a.m. on Race Day. $25 early registration through April 26. $30 registration on day of race (shirt size not guaranteed).

Keefe said the 10-inch metal pipeline originally installed in 1962 should have been buried 3 feet underground, but he says at the time of Behme’s accident, the pipe was buried just 6 to 8 inches underground. The area’s topography might have changed over the years, the attorney added. Behme’s tilling equipment, called a rotary mixer, was set to dig 11 inches deep.

Ameren, however, claims Keller Construction failed to contact the energy company before workers began excavating. Ameren filed a third-party complaint, adding Keller Construction, the subdivision developer’s parent company, to the lawsuit.

Ameren, along with the company’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.

On March 17, 2016, Ameren says, its workers located the pipe and marked it with paint and yellow flags, according to Ameren’s complaint. An Ameren representative contacted Keller Construction on the same day to discuss the construction project’s status. A representative for Keller said the company would notify Ameren in advance of excavation, but the Keller company did not contact Ameren and proceeded without notifying the energy company, Ameren’s complaint says.

There are some things you’re never going to forget. Maryville Police Officer Justin Krausz

But Angela Behme’s attorney says otherwise. Keefe says Ameren failed to properly “pothole,” or check the pipe’s depth. Keefe alleges that Ameren officials in October “wanted to pothole the very area where this accident happened, but never followed up, never potholed it.” Just 50 feet to the west, Keefe says, Ameren checked the depth of other pipelines, and found those pipes were buried 51 inches.

“Keller reasonably believed that this thing was at least 4 and a half to 5 feet deep,” based on the nearby pipe depth, Keefe said.

Ameren denies Angela Behme’s assertions, arguing the energy company relied on Keller Construction’s word that they would not begin excavation without notification. Ameren’s complaint accuses Keller Construction of violating a law that requires companies to provide Ameren notice when they are preparing to begin excavation. Ameren also claims repairs to the pipe cost roughly $96,500, and the loss of gas amounted to nearly $5,000.

Keefe, meanwhile, asserts there is “zero evidence” Keller moved any dirt, saying the day of the explosion was Behme’s first day on the job and that he was operating a tiller, not excavating equipment.

In such a document-heavy case involving so many parties, the lawsuit will continue for at least another year, Keefe predicted. A trial has tentatively been set for March 2018.

As the legal battles continue, family and loved ones of Behme have started The Doug Behme Foundation’s to benefit burn victims and their families.

In February, the Southern Illinois Association of Police Chiefs awarded the Life Saving Award to the two Maryville police officers who helped pull Behme away from the fire. Krausz and Ponce say the explosion remains vivid in their memories.

“I think about that day every time I drive down that road,” Krausz said. “There are some things you’re never going to forget.”


Gas main explosion badly burns construction worker; Maryville police officer pulls him to safety

Longtime Maryville resident Jim Harrison says the gas main explosion, fire happened close to his home. He tells about seeing a person walk away from the flames on Wednesday afternoon. Kaitlyn Schwers

By Kaitlyn Schwers, Lexi Cortes and Elizabeth Donald

A gas line explosion and towering fireball hurt at least one construction worker and consumed construction equipment about 2 p.m. Wednesday along Illinois 162 in Maryville.

The injured person was taken to Anderson Hospital in Maryville with burns over 70 percent of his body, then flown to a St. Louis hospital. The equipment operator with Keller Construction in Edwardsville was stabilized at the Maryville hospital before being transferred to Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, which has a burn unit.

“They were able to get him here very quickly,” Anderson Hospital spokeswoman Natalie Head said. “Our prayers are with his family.”

News photographs and eyewitness accounts painted a chaotic scene, with police officers rushing toward the fireball.

Maryville resident Jim Harrison said he saw Maryville Police Officer Justin Krausz carry an injured person from the fire.

“He put his car in park, radioed it in and ran directly toward him, and picked him up and carried him a distance from the flames, then other rescue crews started arriving,” Harrison said.

Maryville Police Chief Rob Carpenter said a construction crew excavating at the site of the future Villas at Nottingham hit a 10-inch steel gas line and triggered an explosion at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. Carpenter said the intense flames made it difficult for emergency workers to work, but they were able to get to a worker who was seriously injured and rush him to the hospital. “The flames were shooting very high in the air when we arrived,” he said.

Early reports that there was a fatality on the scene were in error, Carpenter said. “Everybody else is accounted for,” he said.

Ameren crews were able to shut off the gas line, but the explosion set several cars on fire, some of which also exploded, Carpenter said. “We heard a lot of pops and bangs,” he said.

Carpenter said as far as he knows, none of the houses was damaged. Residents were evacuated for at least a quarter mile east and west from the scene. Illinois 162 was closed from Illinois 159 to 157, along with several side roads and sections of Illinois 157. “We’re not going to let anyone back in until we know it’s 100 percent safe,” Carpenter said.

John Barud, an Ameren operations director, said a loss of gas pressure was noticed immediately at a control center in Decatur.

“We saw a loss of pressure, and we knew something had happened to a 10-inch, steel, high-pressure main that runs down here,” Barud said.

“There’s a third party construction company, not Ameren, was doing some work at a subdivision down the road and they actually dug into this high pressure main. And it’s several hundred pounds of pressure. So once they dug into it and perforated it there was an escape of gas. And it would have come out like a jet engine, because of the pressure, and there was an ignition at some point,” Barud said.

Carpenter said he was not aware of what precautionary measures were or were not taken by the construction company regarding presence of gas lines.

Glen Carbon resident Sandy Gerstenecker-Weinacht said she smelled gas in the area more than an hour prior to the explosion Wednesday afternoon.

“I was just driving through on 159 at 12:45 and could smell gas by the new Circle K gas station and Walgreens,” she said.

The explosion led to evacuation of some homes in the area. Witness Jimmy Simmons, a freelance photographer, said the explosion rocked his house and then he saw the flames shooting up.

Simmons said a woman driving on Illinois 162 at Buck Road Cemetery had to abandon her car and run from the fire. Construction equipment was being consumed by flames and he shielded himself from the heat with a tombstone to get photos.

“I guess I was about a football field away from the fire,” Simmons said. “Even at that distance the heat was so intense. I worried about the power lines being burned and the power lines falling down. We didn’t stay very long.”

According to Collinsville Unit 10 School District, school buses carrying students to that area were intercepted. Students living in the affected area were being taken back to school, where families could pick them up.

Black smoke was visible from the south border of Maryville.

Federal jury awarded $8.3 million to Stars Investment Group LLC and Stars Design Group Inc. whose building was destroyed in 2014 by a natural gas explosion and fire in Soulard.

Federal jury awards $8.3 million over 2014 gas explosion in Soulard

By Robert Patrick St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Mar 31, 2017

ST. LOUIS • A federal jury awarded on Friday nearly $8.3 million to two companies whose building was destroyed in 2014 by a natural gas explosion and fire in Soulard.

Stars Investment Group LLC and clothing and manufacturing firm Stars Design Group Inc. claimed in court and in the lawsuit that AT&T and two of its contractors, MasTec North America Inc. and Four Winds Construction LLC, were negligent when installing a fiber optic line on Feb. 5, 2014. The line was supposed to provide high-speed data to Stars’ brick building at 2222 Menard Street.

Stars’ attorney Eric Trelz told jurors in closing arguments Thursday, on the seventh day of the trial, that Four Winds failed to remove the snow from the ground and find the building’s gas line. After workers cut the line, gas was forced through the building’s foundation and built up until an explosion occurred.

MasTec had too much work and subcontracted the job to Four Winds, which he said was under time pressure to finish the job. Four Winds tried to do so when “no reasonable work crew would have proceeded,” showing “conscious disregard’ for the company, the building occupants and the first responders who showed up after reports of the leak, he said.

Firefighters evacuated building occupants moments before the explosion. In court filings, lawyers said that the building was “left to burn in order to prevent further gas explosions in the neighborhood” and that blocks surrounding the building were evacuated for most of the day.

Four Winds lacked a business license and permit to do the job, officials said after the blast.

Trelz said that MasTec and AT&T, whose project it was, were equally responsible.

Jurors Friday morning awarded Stars Investment Group $1.96 million in actual damages against all defendants and $750,000 in punitive damages against Four Winds. They awarded Stars Design Group $3.5 million in actual damages against all defendants and $2 million in punitive damages against Four Winds.

Jim Leritz, one of the lawyers representing the defendants, declined to comment.

In an email, Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, said, “We respectfully disagree with the verdict and are considering our options.”

Home destroyed after second gas explosion in the Kirkwood, CA area in the past week.

KIRKWOOD, ALPINE COUNTY, Calif. (News 4 & Fox 11) —

A gas explosion destroyed a home in Kirkwood on Friday, according to California Highway Patrol.

The explosion was reported in the afternoon Friday, March 31, in the Dangberg Drive area, CHP said.

Nobody was injured in the explosion, authorities said. It's believed to be the second gas explosion in the Kirkwood area in the past week.


ALPINE COUNTY -- A home was destroyed by a gas explosion Friday near the Kirkwood Mountain Resort, according to the California Highway Patrol.

No one was reported hurt in the explosion on Dangberg Drive.

It's believed that propane system components were blocked by the recent snowfall, causing leaks, according to the Amador Ledger Dispatch. A pilot light or thermostat could have sparked the explosion.

The incident was reportedly the second gas explosion near Kirkwood Resort in just the past week.

Fourth worker died at Faultless Linen Company when the boiler exploded at Loy-Lange Box Co, flew about 500 feet through the air and crashed through the linen company's roof

4th victim who died from boiler blast near Soulard remembered as hard worker; funds set up for families

By Christine Byers St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS • To know Clifford Lee was to know a man with a can-do attitude, a former boss says.

Hence Forland, who runs Windsor Transitional Housing, hired Lee, 53, in November 2015. Lee was featured in two Post-Dispatch stories in 2016 when he was a supervisor for Windsor, an organization that operates a night shelter at the recreation center south of downtown. In August 2016, he was helping train those who will work at Biddle House, a day shelter for the homeless.

“If it wasn’t for him taking on the challenge, we couldn’t have made the transition to Biddle House as smooth for the city of St. Louis,” Forland said. “He and his team made my job easy.

“He fit right in. He came up through the ranks and helped individuals because he let them know, ‘You can do it, you can get the resources.’ He had a real can-do attitude.”

Late last year, Lee left Windsor to try to become a technician installing home security systems, but then went to the Faultless Linen Co. in Soulard knowing it could provide a steady income while he tried to launch his own business, Forland said. The shelter has done business with the linen company, he said.

Lee was with his friends, Christopher Watkins, 46, and Tonya Suarez-Gonzalez, 43, Monday morning filling out new hire paperwork at Faultless when a boiler exploded at the nearby Loy-Lange Box Co. The boiler went airborne for more than 500 feet and crashed through the roof of the health care linen company.

Firefighters freed Lee from underneath the boiler, but he died from his injuries about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Louis University Hospital. He was 53.

Watkins and Suarez-Gonzalez died Monday. Loy-Lange worker Kenneth Trentham, 59, of St Louis, also was killed in the blast, and another man who was injured there remains in critical condition.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board deployed a three-person team to St. Louis on Wednesday to investigate the accident. The agency was funded in 1998 and has investigated only about 130 disasters across the country. It publishes its findings among industries to prevent accidents from happening again. Its investigations typically take about a year to complete, said spokeswoman Amy McCormick.

“As a result of Monday’s explosion, our team will be examining what if any safeguards were in place to protect the workers at the Loy-Lange Box Company, as well as for those in the adjoining building,” according to a statement by Vanessa Sutherland, chairwoman of the agency.

Faultless Linen representatives said Lee had a brother and a sister visit him at the hospital, but they could not be reached for comment.

In previous interviews with the newspaper, Lee spoke about the importance of homeless shelters from his firsthand experience. He lived in them for two years. After 30 years in prison for a series of crimes including robbery and burglary, he found himself sleeping in abandoned buildings and fighting addiction, including crack cocaine.

“I’m one paycheck away, one mistake away from being back there,” Lee told the newspaper om 2015, pointing toward the street. “I don’t want to be there again. I know what they’re going through.”

Forland said he helped Lee move into a new apartment this year in the 4300 block of Forest Park Avenue.

“He was so happy to have his own place,” Forland said.

Several fundraising efforts are underway to assist the families of the deceased and injured.

Suarez-Gonzalez’s children have established a GoFundMe page, and the Sons & Daughters of Soulard, which includes business owners and community members, also has set up an online donation site and plans to cover any fees so that all of the donations can be given to the families.

==================== ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis medical examiner says a fourth person has died from injuries suffered when a boiler exploded at a St. Louis business.

The medical examiner's office says 53-year-old Clifford Lee died Wednesday at St. Louis University Hospital.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Lee was with two friends Monday filling out new employee paperwork at Faultless Linen Company when the boiler exploded at Loy-Lange Box Co. The one-ton boiler flew about 500 feet through the air and crashed through the linen company's roof.

Lee's friends, 46-year-old Christopher Watkins and 43-year-old Tonya Suarez-Gonzalez, died at the scene.

A Loy-Lange worker, 59-year-old Kenneth Trentham, also died in the blast.

Federal and local investigators are working to determine the cause of the blast.

3 dead after boiler explosion in St. Louis.  Lack of proper maintenance is to blame.

Apr 3, 2017, 3:45 PM ET

Three people died and several others suffered serious injuries after a boiler exploded at a building in St. Louis, sending a piece of equipment flying into the air and through the roof of another building, fire officials said.

The boiler explosion at the Loy-Lange Box Co. left one person dead in that building, authorities said at a news conference this morning.

After the explosion, a piece of the boiler was tossed into the air and pierced the roof of a nearby building, the Faultless Healthcare Linen plant, killing two people, officials said.

The mayor's director of communications described the piece of the boiler as "van-sized."

KMOVThe St. Louis Fire Department confirmed the three people had died after a boiler explosion in St. Louis, April 3, 2017.

Two people were in critical condition, and two others suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the fire department said.

Mark Spence, the COO of Faultless Healthcare Linen, confirmed that two Faultless Healthcare Linen employees were killed from debris that came into the plant after the explosion.

"One other Faultless Healthcare Linen employee was involved and the extent of that person’s injuries has not been confirmed," Spence said in a statement. "We immediately will be giving what practical help we can to our employees and their families. We are grateful to the firefighters and other emergency responders who have acted heroically in response to this tragic event."

Spence said this location has 106 employees and that it could not yet be confirmed how many were in the building at the time of the incident.

St. Louis Fire DepartmentThe St. Louis Fire department confirmed that there were three fatalities at Russell and South Broadway in St. Louis.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation because the incident involved fatalities, an OSHA spokesman told ABC News. Health and Safety Compliance Officers are at scene interviewing witnesses and employers to see whether any potential safety violations may have led to the incident, the spokesman said. 


ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on the deadly explosion of a boiler in an industrial area of south St. Louis (all times local):

5 p.m.

A spokeswoman for St. Louis' mayor says the city has strict licensure requirements when it comes to boilers much like the van-sized one that exploded Monday morning, killing three people and injuring four others in two different businesses.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said the boiler exploded at the Loy-Lange Box Co. in south St. Louis, killing one person there. The chief says much of that equipment flew about 500 feet (150 meters) across the street onto a laundry business, killing two people there when it came through the roof.

Two of the four survivors remained in critical condition later Monday.

Federal workplace safety officials are investigating.

Maggie Crane said on Mayor Francis Slay's behalf that although the city doesn't inspect boilers, it requires any business with one to have a city-licensed engineer on staff whenever one of those pieces of equipment is running. Crane says such licenses must be renewed each year.

Crane says Loy-Lange had three engineers on staff with up-to-date licenses as of Monday.


4 p.m.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says he believes a boiler explosion that killed three people and injured four others, two critically, in two different businesses was a commercial accident.

Jenkerson says two of the four survivors of the blast shortly before 8 a.m. Monday remain in critical condition. He says one of them was undergoing surgery.

Jenkerson says the boiler exploded at the Loy-Lange Box Co. in south St. Louis, killing one person there. The chief says much of that equipment flew about 500 feet (150 meters) across the street onto a laundry business, killing two people there when it came through the roof. The equipment is described as being the size of a van

Federal workplace safety officials are investigating.


12:15 p.m.

Federal workplace safety regulators say a St. Louis company whose boiler exploded causing at least three deaths Monday has paid fines for workplace violations three times since 2014.

Scott Allen of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the Loy-Lange Box Co. paid a $3,741 fine after an August 2016 inspection found holes in floors that prevented proper cleaning.

An inspection in November 2014 found defective equipment, including a forklift without lights and damage to some safety latches. The company paid $6,566.

And in February 2014, the company paid $2,450 for defective energy control procedures, such as not properly training employees to ensure machinery was turned off and powered down.

Three people died and four were injured when the Loy-Lange boiler exploded, launching parts of it through the roofs of two nearby buildings. It's not clear if any of the earlier safety violations involved the boiler.


11:30 a.m.

Federal workplace safety investigators are at the scene of an industrial boiler explosion that killed three people and hospitalized four others.

Scott Allen with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says OSHA investigators arrived at Loy-Lange Box Co. not long after the blast Monday morning.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says the explosion launched a boiler the size of a van through the box company's roof and slammed much of it down hundreds of feet away in a neighboring laundry business.

Jenkerson says the dead include one person at the box company and two at the laundry.

Online OSHA records show that Loy-Lange has paid more than $12,700 in fines as part of three investigation since 2014. The records don't list specifics about the cases, and it's unclear if any citations were related to the boiler or other equipment.


10 a.m.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says a boiler that killed one person when it exploded at a box company in St. Louis flew about 500 feet before crashing through the roof of a nearby laundry business, killing two more.

The boiler exploded Monday morning at the Loy-Lange Box Co. Four other people were injured and at least two are in critical condition.

A third person at Faultless Healthcare Linen was pinned under the boiler but fire department responders were able to free that victim.

Jenkerson says the boiler was a cast iron cylinder about 8 or 9 feet long and 4 feet in diameter, weighing about 1½ tons. He says it was about the size of a van.

A piece of pipe about 8 feet long pierced the roof of the nearby Pioneer Industrial Corp., but no one was injured there.


9:30 a.m.

Authorities say three people were killed and four others injured when a boiler exploded in a building in an industrial area of south St. Louis, reportedly sending the boiler airborne and through the roof of a nearby building.

The St. Louis Fire Department said on Twitter that two of the victims sustained critical injuries in the blast shortly before 8 a.m. Monday at the Loy-Lange Box Co.

Fire officials say at least three buildings have been damaged by debris.

Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said part of the boiler housed in an office area went through Loy-Lange's roof.

Jenkerson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the explosion seems to have been accidental and that investigators will review machine maintenance records.

No other details have been released, including whether anyone was working on the boiler at the time of the explosion.

The phone rang unanswered at Loy-Lange Box Co., and an email message by The Associated Press to the company wasn't immediately returned.

The company is described on its website as a "full service corrugator and custom box manufacturer."

Messages left with a fire department spokesman were not immediately returned.