Thursday, June 22, 2017

A gas explosion and fire caused by a gas leak created by negligent contractors who broke a gas line, completely destroyed a building outside of Bellefontaine, Ohio

BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio (WDTN) – A building in Bellefontaine has been leveled by an explosion.

The explosion happened shortly after noon at the intersection of County Road 11 and County Road 18 in the city.

Fire crews from Bellefontaine and West Liberty were both called in to battle the blaze.

2 NEWS has learned the building was once a gas company and has been converted into a Baptist church.

2 NEWS has a crew on the way to the scene. We will keep you updated as we learn more information.


UPDATE @ 3:20 p.m.

An explosion caused by a gas leak completely destroyed a building outside of Bellefontaine, according to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office.

Dispatchers said a gas line was hit by workers digging in the area. The gas leak caused an explosion that destroyed a building at the intersection of County Road 11 and County Road 18.

Both County Road 11 and County Road 18 are blocked at the scene of the explosion.

No injuries have been reported.

Additional details were not available.


A building has sustained damage after a gas line was struck and caused an explosion in Bellefontaine Thursday.

Dispatchers said around 12:25 p.m., they received a call that a gas line was struck at the intersection of County Road 11 and County Road 18.

The gas leak caused an explosion that damaged a building at the intersection, according to dispatchers.

There were no reports of injuries.

We’re monitoring this developing story and will update this page as new details become available.

Armando Garcia, 17, fatally shot by deputies early Thursday morning as he was trying to save his dog from the shooting cops in Los Angeles, CA

California teen accidentally killed by deputies shooting at dog

A 17-year-old boy and his dog were fatally shot by deputies early Thursday morning after the pit bull attacked a deputy in Palmdale, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

PALMDALE, Calif. -- A 17-year-old boy and a dog were fatally shot by deputies early Thursday morning after the pit bull attacked a deputy in California, according to authorities.

The incident occurred about 3:47 a.m. in the 38500 block of 10th Street East, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

Deputies at the scene said they initially responded to a report of loud music at a party. As they were conducting an investigation, one of the deputies was allegedly bitten by a pit bull. The deputy was not seriously injured.

The dog was restrained by a person at the scene, but as the investigation continued, the animal got loose again and charged at the deputies, authorities said. The deputies then opened fire on the pit bull.

Amid the shooting, a friend of the dog's owner allegedly raced around a corner in an effort to apprehend the animal. Caught in the crossfire, the teen was struck at least once in the upper torso, sheriff's deputies said.

He was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His name was not immediately released.

Homicide Bureau detectives responded to the scene, where a section of 10th Street was closed.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the sheriff's department at (323) 890-5500.


PALMDALE, Calif. – Authorities say sheriff's deputies killed a 17-year-old boy while shooting at a dog outside a home early Thursday morning, reports CBS Los Angeles.

The station reports that according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the teen, who was identified by family as Armando Garcia, was likely struck by a bullet that ricocheted off the driveway.

Deputies were checking on a house party at about 3:47 a.m. when they were reportedly confronted by a pit bull. At some point, Garcia came outside to check on the dog, which had bitten a deputy on the leg, LASD said. Deputies opened fire on the dog, and one of the bullets struck the boy.

"We believe that when the individual came out from behind the building, which was approximately 40 feet away from where the shooting occurred, he may have been struck by one of the skip rounds. And it is what we're calling an extremely, extremely unfortunate incident," LASD Capt. Chris Bergner said at a Thursday morning news conference.

Garcia was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"My nephew was trying to save the dog because the cops started shooting at the dog," the victim's aunt, Amber Alcantar, told CBS Los Angeles. "He put his life on the line for an animal that wasn't even his."

The deputy who was bitten by the dog was also struck by a ricocheting bullet and was taken to a hospital for treatment, Bergner said. The dog was shot three or four times, L.A. County animal control confirmed. It was taken to a veterinary hospital to undergo surgery, but had to be euthanized.

With the kind of reckless and heavy-handed police we have, who needs the terrorists?

Los Angeles County reckless sheriff’s deputies accidentally shot and killed a teenager in Palmdale early Thursday when their bullets bounced off the ground as they opened fire on an aggressive dog, sheriff’s officials said.

The 17-year-old was struck in the chest by at least one “skip” round several yards from the deputies, who may not have noticed the teenager in the darkness when they fired several rounds at a charging pit bull just after 3:40 a.m., officials said.

Moments earlier, the dog had bitten one of the deputies in the knee and the teenager had restrained the animal so that it wouldn’t attack again. The deputy bitten by the dog was also struck by a fragment of a bullet that bounced off the ground in the shooting.

A family member identified the teen as Armando Garcia, who had attended R. Rex Parris High School in Palmdale.


In a news conference at the scene hours after the shooting, Capt. Christopher Bergner of the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau said it appeared that both the teen and the deputy had been struck by rounds that ricocheted off the ground when deputies fired at the charging animal.

“He may have been struck by one of the skip rounds in what we’re calling an extremely, extremely unfortunate incident,” Bergner said. “Our initial impression was [the deputies] didn’t even see the individual coming around from the side of the building.”

Authorities said deputies had gone to an apartment complex in the 38500 block of 10th Street East around 3:40 a.m. in response to a call about a loud party. As they arrived, a pit bull charged at them and bit one of the deputies in the left knee, Bergner said.

The teenager, restrained the animal and brought it to the rear of the complex, which was around a corner, Bergner said. Meanwhile, the deputies retreated from the home to call for backup and medical units, who arrived and checked on the bitten deputy’s injuries.

At some point, the pit bull broke free and charged at the deputies again.

Bergner said the dog was a full-grown male that weighed 60 to 65pounds and was five to seven feet away from the deputies when they opened fire.

The dog was struck and retreated to a carport area at the rear of the complex, the Sheriff’s Department said. Deputies decided to try to corral the dog to prevent anyone else from being attacked, but as they approached the carport they saw the boy on the ground wounded.

Deputies provided medical aid before paramedics arrived and took him to Antelope Valley Hospital, where he died.

Garcia’s aunt, Amber Alcantar, said deputies told her the teen was shot while trying to stop the dog from attacking deputies a second time.

Alcantar said she heard a knock on her door in the early morning. It was Garcia’s friend, who was frantically looking for the boy’s mother.

The youngster was holding a pair of bloodied shoes. They were Garcia’s, Alcantar said.

"Obviously something was wrong," the aunt said. She and Garcia’s mother went to two hospitals in search of him, but couldn’t find him and eventually returned home.

The dog's owner declined to give her name because “she had too many things going on with the law right now.”

She said the dog is a 3-year-old blue-nosed pit bull. Her home is used as a local hangout by some of the neighborhood kids.

“They are all my friends,” the woman said. “They are good kids. They come over and they listen to music.”

She said that, like on any ordinary night, the neighborhood kids were hanging out early Thursday and listening to music. Her dog was off its leash, but is well-mannered, she said.

She was skeptical at deputies’ claims that her dog attacked them.

“That's not my dog. That's not his personality,” she said.

After the shooting, deputies hauled her pit bull and Chihuahua away.

“They took the dog, but [Garcia] lost his life. That's not justice," she said.

The deputy who was bitten and later struck by a bullet fragment was treated at another local hospital and was released, Bergner said. The dog was shot and survived but will be euthanized.

Under the department’s use-of-force policy, deputies are allowed to fire at animals if they “reasonably believe” that they’re about to be killed or be seriously injured by the animal.

Bergner said any time a deputy fires a duty weapon, he or she is put on temporary desk duty while the incident is investigated.

Speeding boat operator 56-year-old Larry Allen Guillen and two passengers injured after a 36-foot Skater vessel was traveling an estimated 80 to 100 miles per hour when the operator made a hard left turn and the occupants were ejected on Lake Havasu, AZ

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. (KTNV) - Mohave County Sheriff’s Waterways deputies responded to an injury boat crash near Havasu Palms on Lake Havasu late Tuesday morning.

Approximately 9:55 a.m., deputies responded to the scene of where three occupants, including the operator, were ejected from a boat. The 36-foot Skater vessel was traveling an estimated 80 to 100 miles per hour when the operator made a hard left turn and the occupants were ejected, the Sheriff's Office reported.

Everyone was wearing a lifejacket and the operator of the boat was also wearing the safety engine cutoff lanyard.

The operator, identified as 56-year-old Larry Allen Guillen of Huntington Beach, California, suffered severe head laceration and was transported to Havasu Regional Medical Center. The two passengers, identified as Lake Havasu City residents Bradly Stewart, 40, and Anthony Nelson, 28, had minor injuries and refused medical attention.

The high rate of speed is a factor while alcohol does not appear to be a factor, the Sheriff's Office reported. This crash remains under investigation.


Three Injured in Cállate Skater Crash on Lake Havasu

Created: Tuesday, 20 June 2017 13:31 Written by Jason Johnson

Through various online reports and other industry sources, has confirmed that owner Larry Guillen and project manager Brad Stewart (the owner of E-Ticket Performance Boats), and one other passenger, were involved in a high-speed accident while testing Cállate, a Skater Powerboats 368 catamaran on Lake Havasu, the Colorado River-fed lake that border’s Arizona and California.

Larry Guillen enjoying Cállate, his 36-foot Skater, as he cruises into Pirates Cove Resort last summer. Photo courtesy Ginny Scott

The boat, which was covered extensively on (see the Project thread), reportedly was being tested for this week’s Texas Outlaw Challenge Shootout as well as the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees Performance Boat Challenge Shootout in Oklahoma in July.

According to Havasu Scanner Feed, local authorities responded to the incident, which reportedly happened when the 36-foot cat turned hard to avoid a personal watercraft near Black Meadow Landing. There is also a news report online at

According to reports all three occupants were wearing lifevests and the boat’s safety cutoff lanyard was in use. Safety teams brought the occupants to Contact Point where Guillen was transferred to Havasu Regional Medical Center. Reports surfaced that Stewart has a broken shoulder and that Guillen suffered a severe head laceration and is in emergency surgery. The third passenger, whose name hasn’t been confirmed, was reportedly OK and declined medical treatment.

33-year-old employee of Florida Caribbean Distillers, Aaron Rowe, of Kissimmee, was electrocuted to death in Auburndale while working on a conveyor belt motor after the lock-out system used to shut off power was affixed to the wrong circuit breaker

AUBURNDALE, FL — A 33-year-old employee at Florida Caribbean Distillers in Auburndale was electrocuted Wednesday while working on a conveyor belt motor, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Aaron Rowe, of Kissimmee, died at Winter Haven Hospital at 6:15 p.m.

The Medical Examiner’s Office plans to conduct an autopsy today.

Preliminary reports show that Rowe was working about 5 p.m. at the company at 425 Recker Highway to supply power to a conveyor belt that was down. He appeared to turn off power to the line he was working, then spliced the wires to make the proper connection to the motor, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

But the wire was live, and it appears that the lock-out system used to shut off power was affixed to the wrong circuit breaker. Rowe had shut off power to a separate wire not in use, the Sherrif’s Office reported.

The distillery is the maker of a line of rums, whiskeys and fruit cordials. It was established in 1943 and bills itself as Florida’s oldest distillery.

Rowe suffered burns to his hands, according to the report.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate the death.

FCD is an innovative drinks company with an expertise in rum and an outstanding collection of brands that meet the consumption needs of today’s beverage alcohol consumer.

Florida Distillers is the premier producer of Florida Rum. We currently produce this product at 188 proof and resell it to a variety of bottlers throughout the World. We produce citrus neutral spirits, citrus brandy, cane neutral spirits, and rum at our facility. We also produce and sell a product called ‘other than standard orange wine’ (OTSOW) to every major bottler in the United States and throughout the World that is used as an ingredient in liqueurs and cordials.============

Auburndale, Florida – On Wednesday, June 21, 2017 the Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to 425 Recker Highway, Auburndale, for a cardiac arrest call for service. The location is the Florida Caribbean Distillers. Units with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Polk County Fire Rescue arrived on scene and observed Aaron Rowe, 33 years old of Kissimmee, lying on the ground unresponsive. Life saving measures were performed and Aaron was transported to the Winter Haven Hospital.

Aaron was pronounced deceased at the Winter Haven Hospital at 6:16.

During the investigation it was learned the location contains numerous conveyor belts and machinery within the facility. The decedent, who was an employee of the business, was working on supplying power to a conveyor belt motor, making that particular conveyor operational again. The decedent used a lock out system to power off the line which he was working with. While working on supplying power to the motor, the decedent spliced the power wires to make the proper connections to the motor. The power wire was live at this time and the decedent appears to have been electrocuted. During the investigation it was determined the lock out system was affixed to the wrong circuit breaker. This shut off power to a wire other than the one which the decedent was physically working with.

OSHA was notified and will be conducting an independent investigation in reference to this case.

The decedent had burn marks located on both hands. The decedent was transported to the 10th District Medical Examiner’s Office. An autopsy is tentatively scheduled for June 22, 2017.

66-year-old truck driver Ronald Slagg of Yakima killed after his semi-truck collided with a BNSF freight train in Washington State, split in half and burst into flames

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. - A truck driver has died after a freight train slammed into his semi-trailer rig as it was crossing tracks in Eastern Washington.

Emergency personnel responded to the scene, near Plymouth in Benton County, at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after receiving reports of a train derailment.

Officials told KEPR-TV News that responders found what was left of a semi attached to the first train engine in flames.

Medics found the driver, 66-year-old Ronald Slagg, to be critically injured. He was airlifted to the hospital but died from his injuries Wednesday evening.

The semi's cargo crashed on one side of the tracks while the cab was split and thrown into the field on the other side of the unguarded railroad crossing.

Officials said the force of the crash knocked down a nearby utility pole, ripping down power lines at the scene. Crews were at the scene to repair the fallen lines.

Firefighters said the collision also caused a fuel spill that sparked four fires down the length of the train.

All emergency agencies in Benton County responded to the scene to help control the flames and keep them from spreading.

Detectives with the Benton County Sheriff's Department are investigating the cause of the crash.


Truck driver dies in collision with train near Plymouth

By Cameron Probert

A 66-year-old truck driver died after a freight train struck his semi Wednesday just outside of Plymouth.

Ronald Slagg of Yakima was driving a truck with an empty trailer on a private road about five miles west of Interstate 82, said the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

The train was traveling to Portland when it collided with the semi at a private crossing at 2:28 p.m., said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.

The crossing was marked, and the train was using its whistle as it approached, he said. The crew tried to stop.

The impact demolished the truck’s cab, cutting the semi into three large pieces.

Slagg was flown to Kadlec Medical Center where he later died. A small fire started near the tracks and spread to the locomotive where BNSF employees extinguished it, Melonas said. Neither the train’s conductor nor the engineer were hurt.

Benton County firefighters put out the small fire that started in the brush near the collision.

The 53-car train was traveling from Chicago to Portland with a load of lighter fluid and acid, sheriff’s officials said. Nothing was damaged on the train, and nothing leaked.

BNSF crews were expecting to work until 7 p.m. clearing the wreckage and inspecting the locomotives and tracks, before the train could move, Melonas said.

Fifteen other trains were delayed because of the collision, he said. About 45 trains travel daily along the line.

Plymouth is along the Columbia River in southern Benton County about 30 miles from Kennewick.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the collision.

CALINFERNIO!! California’s most severe heat wave in a decade is expected to peak Thursday as temperatures soar into triple digits around the state

Marissa Smith of the 4-H Club waters down Rose to keep her cool at the barn at Emma Prusch Farm Park in San Jose, California, on Thursday, June 22, 2017. Temperatures are expected to hit triple digits as California's most severe heatwave in a decade peaks today. (Gary Reyes/ Bay Area News Group)
By Mark Gomez | and Eric Kurhi | | Bay Area News Group
 UPDATED: June 22, 2017 at 11:14 am

California’s most severe heat wave in a decade is expected to peak Thursday as temperatures soar into triple digits around the state, including in several Bay Area cities.

The National Weather Service has issued heat warnings Thursday for much of the Bay Area, where temperatures are expected to reach 107 degrees in Concord and Livermore, 101 in Gilroy and 97 in San Jose.

At 9:15 a.m., it was 95 degrees in Livermore, according to the weather service.

Although no cities in the Bay Area are expected to set new marks for high temperatures, cities in the Central Valley may experience record-setting heat. If the forecasts hold true, Sacramento (110 degrees forecast) and Stockton (109 forecast) would set new records for June 22.

The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton is offering free admission today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Horse racing was cancelled Thursday at the fair, where temperatures are expected to reach 107 degrees.

“It’s going to be a scorcher for sure,” said Brian Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Overnight lows Wednesday hovered in the upper 70s in many Bay Area cities. At 3 a.m. Thursday, some sites in the North Bay hills were still above 90 degrees, according to the weather service.

Weak onshore winds mean that the ocean won’t cool off the Bay Area, as usual. The heat is due to a persistent high pressure system that is creating heat by compressing air in the American west and southwest, said Will Pi, a forecaster with the weather service.

Santa Clara County officials said the recent string of hot days was responsible in the deaths Monday of two San Jose residents, 72-year-old Dennis Young and 87-year-old Setsu Jordan. One of the San Jose residents who died was homeless and inside a car, according to county officials.

Advocates were not surprised to hear that one of the people who died on Monday was homeless.

“The city dodged a bullet when nobody died in the flood,” said Shaunn Cartwright, a San Jose advocate for the homeless who was distributing water bottles downtown Wednesday night. “Well, a homeless person already died in the first heatwave and that should weigh heavily on their conscience. Sweeps and walls harm and kill people who lose their belongings and shelter.”

She said there are fewer cooling centers this year and they don’t allow possessions or pets inside, discouraging many from going.

Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM Deliverance Ministry said high heat is particularly dangerous for the many homeless people who have existing medical conditions.

“You have people who are diabetic, and pre-diabetic,” he said standing outside the Macredes camp earlier this week. “There’s one woman in the camp who has leukemia.”

Cartwright said they gave out five cases of cold water Wednesday night. She said the average age of recipients was about 50, they “ran into a group of seniors, a woman with a walker and sickle cell waiting for a blood transfusion, an amputee, a man devastated by divorce who just lost his job at a local gym.”

“It was weird,” she said, “ we just got lots of ‘god bless yous,’ ‘oh! nice and cold!’and ‘got any food? i’m hungry’ — nothing about cooling centers or how hot it was.”

Cartwright said her group is going out again Thursday at 5:30 p.m., heading out from St. James Park. This time with water and something to eat, too.

“People were really hungry last night and we didn’t have food,” she said.

Sizzling conditions in Sacramento, where temperatures Thursday are expected to hit a record-setting 109 degrees, have affected the USA track and field outdoor championships at Hornet Stadium. Event organizers have re-scheduled many events by one hour earlier in the morning and one hour later in the afternoon and evening. Still, the junior women 200 meter finals is scheduled today at 2 p.m.; the men’s and women’s 10,000 meter run, the longest events of the competition, are scheduled for 9:27 p.m. and 10:09 p.m.

In Oakland, the A’s play the Houston Astros at 12:35 p.m. The temperature is expected to be 88 degrees.

Slightly cooler conditions are expected Friday, with temperatures about six to 10 degrees cooler than Thursday. The real break is expected this weekend, where temperatures will max out in the low to mid-80s, according to the weather service.

To beat the heat Thursday, many Bay Area cities are offering cooling centers to help beat the heat, especially for vulnerable populations.

Local hardware stores have seen increased sales in fans and air conditioning systems in the past few days, with average sales surpassing the usual 20-30 units sold per week, according to a representative from the Orchard Supply Hardware in downtown San Jose.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in fan sales,” said one representative from the Hassett ACE Hardware in Willow Glen. “We actually ran out of them in our warehouse the other day because sales were so high.”

The last severe heat wave, which the weather service dubbed “the remarkable heat wave of July 2006,” claimed the lives of at least 100 people in California, many of them elderly.

Officials with PG&E expect localized power outages Thursday, the result of equipment failure due to the scorching temperatures and increase in electricity flowing through its lines. Early Thursday morning, there were just a handful of reported outages, according to PG&E’s website.

Between Friday and Tuesday, more than 236,000 of the company’s 5.4 million electrical customers in California lost power. More than 118,000 of the affected customers were in the Bay Area, though power had been restored to all but 1,230 by Tuesday evening.

“The outages we’ve seen over the last few days were a result of the severe heat impacting equipment and causing transformer failure,” PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said. He compared the spike in temperatures statewide to a “summer storm,” adding that searing temperatures can cause equipment failure, resulting in outages.

The opioid epidemic has infiltrated the Louisiana workforce, driving up turnover and absenteeism rates, while decreasing productivity

Prescription for disaster: Louisiana’s opioid epidemic

Annie Ourso
June 21, 2017 | Business

Every time RoyOMartin has to replace an employee, it shells out at least $25,000 to hire and train someone new. And in recent years, the Alexandria-based lumber company has increasingly spent more to replace lost workers as a national epidemic has infiltrated the Louisiana workforce, driving up turnover and absenteeism rates, while decreasing productivity.

President and CEO Roy O. Martin III decided last fall that he had to speak out. Along with the company’s medical director, Martin penned a letter to physicians in central Louisiana, pleading with them for help.

“Over the years, we have had several employees who never returned to work after a surgery because of prescription drug dependency,” Martin wrote, asking doctors to heed the medical director’s recommendation and limit painkiller prescriptions. “I hope we can work collectively to stem the growth of the opioid epidemic.”

As the use and abuse of prescription painkillers has skyrocketed across the nation—and predominantly so in the Bayou State—Martin’s letter reflects a growing concern among businesses over the well-being of the workforce, and the costly strain of increased turnover rates and prescription drug costs, which is RoyOMartin’s fastest-growing expense. How the opioid epidemic impacts the work place. (click to enlarge)

In recent years, Louisiana has seen an alarming rise in opioid-related overdoses and become one of just eight states with more opioid prescriptions than residents. The severity of the issue prompted the state to pass legislation in June aimed at curbing the epidemic.

Less has been said, however, about an area where Louisiana’s opioid abuse also rises above the rest: its workforce. The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute reports 85% of injured workers in Louisiana on pain medication received opioids from 2012 to 2014. What’s worse, one in six received opioids on a long-term basis, making Louisiana No. 1 among 25 study states for long-term use.

The impact on workers and employers is “quite literally an epidemic,” says Jim Patterson, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry vice president of government affairs. He adds the issue has been known and talked about among the business community, but not broadly enough.

“It’s kind of a dirty little secret in the workplace,” Patterson says. “We are overdue in trying to address the problem of the overprescription of opioids.”

Employers often turn a blind eye to prescription painkiller abuse, brushing it off as a personal matter, says Dr. Luke Lee, medical director of Baton Rouge-based Prime Occupational Medicine. But, as a medical provider serving companies across south Louisiana, Lee knows the widespread nature of opioid abuse in the workforce makes it an employment issue as well as a societal one.

“The opioid crisis is just as bad as the press portrays, if not more so,” Lee says. “Based on my 20-plus years of reviewing workplace drug screens, illegal use of opioids at work increased by more than 200% over the last five years.”

Some of Louisiana’s top industries with large workforces, such as industrial contractors and petrochemical plants, involve heavy manual labor and higher risk of injury. When a worker is injured and receives prescription painkillers, it can impact their ability to show up and perform their job, especially if the worker abuses them.

“There’s the cost to the worker and then the cost to the business because they have to retrain and replace that worker when they’re out,” says Troy Prevot, executive director of LCTA Workers’ Comp. “The retraining and loss of productivity—that’s the cost to the workforce and the business right there, which passes on to the consumer.” Dr. Luke Lee says illegal opioid use at work has increased by more than 200% over the past five years. (Photo by Don Kadair)

The epidemic has also led to a spike in health care and workers’ compensation costs for employers like RoyOMartin. Safety, however, may be the most obvious and most serious concern.

Local doctors say narcotic pain medications impair users’ judgment and their ability to focus and function safely.

“Our big thing is catching it and making sure personnel are not impaired on the job,” says Shane Kirkpatrick, president of Group Contractors. “It’s hard to catch with a prescription. You don’t know if they’re taking it properly. It’s legal, but that doesn’t mean a worker is clear and should be operating a crane.”


RoyOMartin has taken a proactive approach to opioid abuse by addressing the issue head-on, educating its employees and providing them with quality health care resources.

“It’s on our dashboard every day,” says Ray Peters, vice president of human resources and marketing. “We’ve had several employees, not one or two—
several—who from a workers’ comp perspective may have been injured on the job, and what happens is they go into medical treatment and opioids are used as a therapeutic drug in the process.”

But opioids were never intended to be therapeutic, he says. They’re supposed to be limited. The longer opioid use continues, the more at risk people are of addiction. Users will go from one doctor to the next, or “doctor shop,” to refill prescriptions and continue use.

“We’ve had cases where workers just continue and continue, and then fall off the face of the earth and never recover from the injury they had,” Peters says.

RoyOMartin has been able to mitigate opioid use by overseeing the medical care of injured workers. The company has a robust health care program, led by Health Services Manager Collene Van Mol and occupational nurses who can triage injuries. But when injured workers hire an attorney, seek outside care and receive prescription painkillers, their probability of returning to work declines dramatically, says Diane Davidson, employee benefits director.

Continued opioid use not only limits a worker’s ability to go back to work, it extends the length of disability in workers’ comp cases. That’s where money also comes into play, says Prevot of LCTA Workers’ Comp.

“There’s no question you can link opioid abuse to disability duration,” Prevot says. “That costs everybody.”

And in Louisiana, injured workers can technically collect temporary total disability benefits for life, says Andy Condrey, claims manager at The Gray Insurance Company, based in Metairie. The company provides insurance, claims management and loss prevention services for businesses in the oilfield and heavy construction sectors.

Insurers like Condrey and Prevot have seen first-hand the costly impact the opioid epidemic has had on businesses and workers. In most cases, Condrey says, people on painkillers are long-time users who have begun taking a combination of drugs due to the side effects of opioids, such as stomach and sleeping issues.

“We end up paying the benefits, so we see the costs go up,” Condrey says. “Drug costs are astronomical. Then you’re looking at people in their 30s who never go back to work.”  

Kirkpatrick, of Group Contractors, says there is a high percentage of industrial workers with prescription painkillers for one reason or another. Kirkpatrick is a member of several professional industry organizations that he says are trying to find ways to solve the issue, such as better drug tests and shared databases with employee histories.

Contractors require drug tests, but opioids are tricky. Marijuana and cocaine, for example, are relatively simple because they’re illegal, Kirkpatrick says. If someone tests positive for painkillers and has a prescription, they pass, but employers don’t know if they’re abusing them or not. It helps to have health care providers on site or on call. Group Contractors, which has about 400 employees, has partnered with Prime Occupational Medicine and Dr. Lee, who can determine whether employees with prescriptions can operate safely based on the type of drug and exact dosage.

The opioid epidemic is also on the radar of larger industrial contractors such as Turner Industries, which has also taken steps to mitigate the impact on its business.

“Like any employer, we’re very aware of the opioid epidemic and its impact not only on Turner Industries, but the entire country,” says Dan Burke, Turner’s corporate benefits director. “In addition to closely following the stringent measures our industry has in place to ensure worker safety, Turner works closely with our pharmacy benefit manager to track opioid utilization patterns to reduce the likelihood of abuse.”

Staffing agencies that supply the industrial workforce, such as LINK Staffing Services, have also seen an increase in prescription painkiller use. LINK drug tests all applicants and has long had issues with substance abuse, says Baton Rouge branch manager Marcie Boudreaux.

“It’s more of a miracle if someone passes a drug test than if someone fails,” she says. “I’ve seen opioids more now than ever in my 14 to 15 years of doing this. If they have a prescription, we verify it with the pharmacy. But it’s kind of a catch-22 because you don’t want them operating a forklift under the influence of painkillers.”

The overflow of prescription drugs is particularly problematic in Louisiana. Perhaps no one knows this better than multi-state employers, such as Brookshire Grocery Company, which has 175 stores across Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. The company is self insured and employs roughly 13,600 people: 8,800 in Texas, 3,800 in Louisiana and 1,000 in Arkansas.

Brookshire’s Risk Manager Eddie Crawford says that over the last five years, the company spent nearly $680,000 on prescription drug costs and almost 76% of that was spent in Louisiana—although the state had only 26% of the total workers’ comp cases and 28% of employees.

“What we see in Louisiana is worse than anywhere else,” Crawford says.

He attributes the problem to Louisiana’s poor medical treatment guidelines under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, as well as political influences and contributions, mostly from powerful pharmaceutical companies and the pain management sector of the medical field. That includes pain management doctors and clinics, which Crawford says did not exist until about 20 years ago.

The origins of the current opioid epidemic date back to the 1990s with the advent of pain management in the health care industry. But only recently has the crisis reached such proportions in Louisiana and the Capital Region that the public, and business community, has begun to take notice.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, opioid-related overdoses dramatically increased in recent years. The coroner’s office reports overdose deaths rose from 28 in 2012 to 89 in 2016—a 218% increase. Deaths by heroin overdose, meanwhile, jumped by 720% over the same span, from 5 in 2012 to a record 41 in 2015. “It’s more of a miracle if someone passes a drug test than if someone fails,” said Marcie Boudreaux of LINK Staffing Services. (Photo by Don Kadair)

Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal opioid that has similar—and usually much stronger—effects as prescription opioid-based painkillers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription opioid misuse can be a gateway to heroin, with nearly 80% of American heroin users reporting their abuse began with prescription pain medications. This typically happens because those who become addicted to prescription opioids eventually find it easier to find heroin, which is typically cheaper and more potent than painkillers.

Despite the stigma surrounding drug addiction, the opioid crisis seems to have touched a wide-range of the population, including people with stable lives, jobs and families. It also touches a wide range of workplaces. Seven in 10 employers say they’ve been impacted by prescription drugs, according to a 2017 National Safety Council report.

“It is the biggest concern among local employers of all types, from the university staff to the ironworkers,” says Lee.

East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark says no demographic is unaffected. That’s because opioid addiction doesn’t typically originate on the streets or with random recreational use. It most often begins in a more familiar, safer setting: the doctor’s office.

“In most overdose cases we’ve worked, when we’re able to piece together the history of opioid dependence, it began with a prescription from a doctor,” Clark says. “It’s not the case that someone on a Tuesday randomly decides to shoot heroin. Usually someone has an injury, gets an opioid prescription, and it spirals from there.”

Doctors say the opioid epidemic didn’t occur on its own. There were four primary forces behind its inception: pharmaceutical companies, physicians, lawmakers and society as a whole.

The fifth vital sign—pain, and the treatment of it—became a much greater concern in the 1990s. Providers had to increasingly respond to pain, as pain treatment began playing into patient satisfaction scores. Payers like Medicaid linked scores to reimbursements. In other words, doctors became incentivized to treat pain. Clark says some of those policies are now being reversed due to the resulting epidemic.

In the 1990s, society also began to view being pain free as a right, not a privilege, adds Dr. Lee. Pharmaceutical companies capitalized on that. They also encouraged doctors to believe continuous opioid use would not lead to addiction, he says.

“Society and Congress were led to believe pain is not part of normal aspects of life, and that being pain free is a natural right,” he says. “This combination of beliefs led many doctors to prescribe opioids almost indiscriminately, which floods society with pills and ever-increasing ease of access.”

Today, it’s not uncommon to go to the hospital with an injury or for surgery and walk out with a 30-day prescription of narcotic pain pills. But medical experts and employers are now urging providers to limit prescriptions to seven days or less.

That idea has gotten through to the Louisiana Legislature, which this year approved House Bill 192, limiting first-time opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days. The state also passed Senate Bill 55, which expands the mandate to check the Prescription Monitoring Program database when prescribing opioids, with exceptions. It also requires providers to complete three continuing education hours on opioids as a license renewal prerequisite. Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the bills into law. 


Although recent legislation will help to prevent further opioid abuse in Louisiana, the more difficult problem to solve will be how to help the countless people who are already using or addicted to prescription pain pills.

“What people don’t look at is what happens to people once they start taking these things,” says Gary Patureau, president of the Louisiana Association of Self-Insured Employers, which has studied the state opioid epidemic and issued a recent report calling for a workers’ comp pharmacy formulary (see related story on page 25).

Patureau points to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found the likelihood of opioid addiction increases with each additional day of use, starting with the third day. He also references a 2016 University of Colorado study that discovered opioids actually cause increased chronic pain in lab rats, which could have implications for people. Charting overdose deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish. (Click to enlarge)

Condrey, of Gray Insurance, knows the plight of chronic opioid users from personal experience. His brother was injured working in a shipyard at 30 years old and had back surgery. Years later he hurt his back again working on air conditioning units, had surgery and was given an opioid prescription. He continued taking them for 15 years or more.

“One thing they don’t tell you is you build up a tolerance,” Condrey says. “He took more and more until he reached the maximum dose.”

Continued opioid use led to his brother’s downward spiral. He lost his marriage and was living with his mother when the addiction ultimately became too much to bear, and his brother took his own life.

Don Hidalgo, owner of Hidalgo Health Associates, which offers counseling services for the workforce, says the tendency to overprescribe painkillers, especially in workers’ comp cases, has been setting people up for addiction. He says the answer is to limit prescribing, offer alternative treatment and have doctors, psychologists and other health care providers learn how to appropriately treat addiction.

Hidalgo’s company offers Employee Assistance Programs—or EAPs—to Baton Rouge area businesses. He has partnered with more than 100 employers who provide EAPs as an employee benefit. The programs provide counseling services to employees for a range of issues, including prescription drug addiction.

While mental health services have become more common, not many services are available or covered by insurance for addiction in Louisiana, often due to the stigma surrounding substance abuse. But workplace-sponsored counseling and assistance programs often prove successful in treating addiction. Hidalgo says EAPs are a most-effective first-line of treatment and can do more to stem the opioid crisis than any laws or legislation ever could.

Since the opioid epidemic began, he says he has seen more employers reaching out for EAPs and counseling services, although they haven’t directly said that it’s due to opioid abuse in the workplace.

“There’s a hesitancy to say we have a problem in this area,” Hidalgo says. “People don’t know how to address this or have a fear of addressing it.”

Prescription pain pill addictions, and substance abuse in general, is also particularly difficult to overcome, and Hidalgo knows this better than most. In his office, Hidalgo points to a small statue of Don Quixote standing on his desk. He says he can relate to the fictional character, known for his unrealistic idealism, who embarks on a chivalrous quest to right the world’s wrongs. He compares Quixote’s quest to his own battle to rid the world of addiction.

“It’s not the easiest field to work in,” Hidalgo admits. “It’s like cancer—you don’t get a lot who recover, but you don’t give up.”

THE WENDY BEARFOOT DEATH: the fire service trucks were ill-equipped to deal with the burn over. They did not have radiant heat shields, in-cab breathing apparatus and the windshield fell due to extreme heat

Five years after an Australian wildland fire shifted directions and overran a firefighting rig, a coroner’s inquest points to several flaws that led to one firefighter’s death.

Wendy Bearfoot and three other firefighters were in a rig working a brush fire in October 2012 when the wind suddenly shifted. The rigs engine stalled and was consumed by fire.

Three firefighters were severely burned. Bearfoot died of her injuries in the hospital three weeks later.

A coroner’s inquest report released this week points to critical failures in communicating the changing conditions. The inquest also found that the fire service trucks were ill-equipped to deal with the burn over. They did not have radiant heat shields, in-cab breathing apparatus and the windshield fell due to extreme heat, Perth Now reported.

The four firefighters sheltered in the vehicle until the flames passed, then left to take cover under fire blankets. Bearfoot was hit with a blast of intense heat and flames when she exited the truck. She was left separated from the others, badly burned, disoriented and later found walking around the fireground.

Bearfoot suffered burns to 80 percent of her body.

City of Albany lawyer Mark Trowell had said during the inquest that the trucks used in the area at the time, and in which Bearfoot was trapped when it failed, were “death traps,” 9 News reported.

Coroner Sarah Linton said, “training for a burnover situation was also important and not done as comprehensively as it could have been. “Wendy Bearfoot died … after bravely putting her own life in jeopardy to try to contain a fire that was threatening bushland and wildlife.”

THE DEADLY LONDON FIRE: insulation boards manufactured by Celotex on the outside of Grenfell Tower may have filled flats with hydrogen cyanide when they caught fire.

Toxic gases released during Grenfell Tower fire may have caused some deaths. 

The insulation used at Grenfell Tower was made of Polyisocyanurate (PIR), rigid plastic foam sandwiched between two sheets of aluminium foil that supplied in 15cm-thick boards.

Experts say insulation boards on the outside of Grenfell Tower may have filled flats with hydrogen cyanide when they caught fire.

11:11, UK, Thursday 22 June 2017

Grenfell fire released deadly gas
By Paul Kelso, Health Correspondent

Insulation boards fitted to the outside of Grenfell Tower gave off highly toxic hydrogen cyanide gas which may have contributed to the deaths of some of the 79 confirmed victims.

Fire toxicity experts have told Sky News the insulation boards installed during a refurbishment of the tower produce the deadly gas when they burn, and their positioning meant every flat could have been filled with enough gas to kill those inside.

At least three of those injured in the fire have been treated with an antidote for hydrogen cyanide poisoning in hospital, and the number of those affected may be higher.

The gas could have incapacitated some residents, but establishing its role in the cause of death may be impossible because of the condition of the victims.

King's College Hospital confirmed to Sky News that three of the 12 patients it received from the fire were treated with the hydrogen cyanide antidote Cyanokit.

Four other hospital trusts declined to comment on the treatment administered to those injured in the fire.

An initial 68 patients were taken to six hospitals across London, with 18 receiving critical care and some put into induced comas to aid in the recovery of damaged airways.

As of Wednesday morning, 10 people were still being treated in four hospitals, six of them in critical care.

The insulation used at Grenfell Tower was made of Polyisocyanurate (PIR), rigid plastic foam sandwiched between two sheets of aluminium foil that supplied in 15cm-thick boards.

The PIR itself is flammable, but the aluminium foil is intended to disperse flames and prevent it catching fire.

The boards were fitted against the exterior wall of Grenfell Tower, behind the cladding that was installed to improve the appearance of the building.

Richard Hull, professor of chemistry and fire science at the University of Central Lancashire, told Sky News that the gas produced by the insulation when it burned may have been deadly.

"The outside wall of the building had 150mm of PIR foam (fitted), and once the fire had spread to that every flat would have its own source of PIR foam, which would have produced enough hydrogen cyanide to kill all the people in that flat," he said.

Different cladding promised at Grenfell

Professor Hull co-authored a peer-reviewed study in 2011 into the fire toxicity of six insulation materials which was published in the Energy & Building journal. The study established that PIR was the most toxic.

The report also warned that while modern, lightweight building materials are cheaper to produce and offer improved thermal insulation, they pose a greater risk than traditional materials in the event of fire.

Professor Hull said the warnings in his report should have been heeded.

"It's been an accident waiting to happen and unfortunately we've got to the stage now where the accident has happened and we're standing here saying 'I told you so'.

"It would have been much better if people had listened to us earlier on when we published the report."

The insulation board was manufactured by Celotex, who say that if fitted correctly it is the first PIR insulation board that can meet regulations for use on buildings above 18m (59ft) tall.

When contacted for comment, Celotex referred Sky News to a statement on its website published last Friday.

It said: "As with the rest of the nation our thoughts continue to be with those affected by the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in London.

"On Wednesday, as soon as we were able to, we confirmed that our records showed a Celotex product (RS5000) was purchased for use in refurbishing the building.

"This product has a fire rating classification of Class 0, in accordance with British Standards.

"We will of course assist the relevant authorities fully with any enquiries they have."