Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Several workers were injured in an overnight explosion at U.S. Steel Corp.'s Great Lakes Works facility in River Rouge, MI

5 hospitalized after explosions at U.S. Steel facility near Zug Island

Updated on August 2, 2017 at 7:19 AM Posted on August 1, 2017 at 3:45 PM Several employees were injured in an overnight explosion Monday, July 31 at U.S. Steel's Great Lakes Works in River Rouge. (MLive file photo)

By Darcie Moran

RIVER ROUGE, MI - Several workers were injured in an overnight explosion at U.S. Steel Corp.'s Great Lakes Works facility in River Rouge.

The River Rouge Fire Department was called about 11:30 p.m. Monday, July 31 to the U.S. Steel facility near Zug Island for a reported explosion, River Rouge fire Capt. Marvin Dotson said.

The situation was under control with employees already transported to the hospital when firefighters arrived, he said.

Five workers were transported to local hospitals for treatment following the incident at the facility's Hot Strip Mill, according to a statement from U.S. Steel issued Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Of the employees that were injured, two remained hospitalized Tuesday, according to the statement. One employee was treated and released at the plant's on-site medical care facility.

Information on the nature of the explosion was not immediately available. U.S. Steel will work with United Steelworkers and government agencies while the incident remains under investigation, according to the company statement. 


Five people were injured in an explosion late Monday night at U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes Works facility.

The incident occurred just before midnight at one of the company’s facilities on Great Lakes Street, near Zug Island in River Rouge.

The River Rouge Fire Department was sent to the scene to back up the company’s own fire department.

River Rouge Fire Chief Roberto Cruz was unavailable Tuesday afternoon, but shortly after the incident the department confirmed that two people were injured in the explosion at the steel plant, and were taken to the burn unit at Detroit Receiving Hospital for medical treatment.

United States Steel Corporation released a statement regarding the incident:

“Earlier today, there was an incident at U. S. Steel’s Great Lakes Works in the facility’s Hot Strip Mill. Five employees were transported to local hospitals for treatment. Two remain hospitalized at this time. One employee was treated and released at the plant’s on-site medical care facility.”

Meghan Cox, a spokeswoman in U.S. Steel Corporation’s corporate communications office, said that due to privacy laws the company cannot provide any additional information about the employees who were injured, or their conditions.

She said the scene is secure and other employees have been accounted for. Operations at the Hot Strip Mill remain down, but additional operations at Great Lakes Works have not been affected.

The company does not anticipate any impact on customer shipments, as it has additional hot strip mill capacity at other domestic U.S. Steel facilities, if needed.

At no point did the company refer to the incident as an “explosion.”

The News-Herald asked for clarification on the nature of the incident.

“It was a safety incident involving our operations,” Cox said.

She said an investigation is underway and the company will work closely with United States Steelworkers and relevant government agencies throughout the process.

“We have also activated our Employee Assistance Program to offer its services to the injured employees and their families, as well as the coworkers of those injured,” the company stated in the press release. “Our thoughts are with our injured employees, their families and their coworkers at Great Lakes Works.”


At least five employees were taken to the hospital Tuesday after an explosion at United States Steel Corp.'s Great Lakes Works facility in Michigan.

Two of the employees, all of whom were not identified by U.S. Steel (NYSE: X), were hospitalized.Their conditions weren't immediately available, but they reportedly suffered burns and lacerations. Three others were treated at the hospital and one other employee was treated at the Great Lakes Works' facility. All were brought to the scene by the steel mill's fire department.

Officials said that the explosion left a 30-foot-by-60-foot section of wall at the Hot Strip Mill missing. The Hot Strip Mill was inactive after the blast but the rest of the Great Lakes Works operations continue.

"We do not anticipate any impact on customer shipments as we have additional Hot Strip Mill capacity at other domestic U. S. Steel facilities, if needed," U.S. Steel said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Great Lakes Works is located in Ecourse and River Rouge, Mich. It includes the 80-inch hot strip mill, and 80-inch pickle line and a 73-inch hot-dip galvanizing line, among other features.

Worker, 45, at the Holland Pallet Repair in Kalamazoo, MI died from severe traumatic injuries when the left front tire of a large front end loader exploded as he was trying to re-fill it in Michigan

KALAMAZOO, MI -- A 45-year-old Kalamazoo man died Tuesday afternoon when the tire of a large front end loader he was using apparently exploded outside an industrial plant in Kalamazoo's Edison Neighborhood.

The mishap occurred at about 2:25 p.m. on Aug. 1, among huge piles of wooden pallets outside the Kalamazoo Pallet Co., at 2215 Palmer Ave.

Kalamazoo Public Safety officers did not immediately release the name or age of the man involved. In a press release later Tuesday afternoon, officers stated that the first officers to arrive found the man "with severe traumatic injuries and immediately began first aid."

They said, "Medical treatment continued, until it was determined the subject had succumbed to his injuries."

Workers at the scene said the man was using a large front end loader to move discarded, wooden industrial pallets from one place on the east side of a building to another, when the left front tire of the large machine exploded, injuring him.

"He was doing some sort of maintenance work," KDPS Capt. Vernon Coakley said of the injured man. "It looks like something mechanically happened to the forklift causing injury."

Coakley would not provide details, saying the circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated.

A worker said the man had been on the job for just a matter of months.

In its statement, Kalamazoo Public Safety extended condolences to members of the man's family. The department was withholding the name of the victim until it believes his family has been properly notified.

Officers ask anyone with more information about the incident to contact them directly at 269-337-8994 or anonymously via the Silent Observer, 269-343-2100.


 KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A 45-year-old man was killed in a workplace explosion late Tuesday afternoon in Kalamazoo.

It happened around 2:30 p.m., at Holland Pallet Repair on factory street in Kalmazoo.

“It sounded like something large had fallen on the roof or something. It shook the house a bit,” said neighbor Geary North.

The sound of an explosion rocked the neighborhood by the Holland Pallet Repair facility this afternoon.

“It was a big boom, they said it was ear shattering, like ‘boom,’” said Richard Motycka, with AAA Performance. “It was all over when the explosion happened. I don't think he knew what hit him.”

Police and medics arrived to find a Holland Pallet maintenance worker unresponsive. They were unable to revive the 45-year-old man, who died on the scene.

A company employee tells Newschannel 3 the victim was trying to re-fill a tire on a front loader, when it exploded.

At this point, it's unclear how the explosion occurred, or what led to the death.

Gary Kingsbury, a former Holland Pallet employee, used to work on the front loader involved in the incident.

“They've had it years. And we've changed him. I've helped change them before. I air them up and everything,” Kingsbury said.

Richard Motycka, owns AAA Performance, next door to Holland Pallet. He says he knew the victim, and that he was homeless before recently getting hired at Holland Pallet Repair.

“He just started working here 2-3 weeks ago. He did general maintenance, and whatever the boss needed him to do,” Motycka said.

Holland Pallet Repair has been co-owned since 1987. We are a local business who believes in helping the community by recycling used pallets. We build a variety of new and used pallets and crates, also customized for the customers needs. We are ISPM 15 certified to heat-treat pallets

Amber Willemsen, 38, found guilty for the speeding and drunk-driving killing of Pearland police officer Endy Ekpanya in Texas

A former stripper has been sentenced to 32 years in prison for killing a Pearland officer while she was driving drunk after she left work last year.

Amber Willemsen was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter in connection with Officer Endy Ekpanya's death.

Police said Willemsen, 40, slammed into Ekpanya's police cruiser on East Broadway Street near Liberty Drive in Pearland in June 2016 while he was on duty. Prosecutors say the former assistant principal and mother of two got drunk during her seven-hour shift at a strip club off the Gulf Freeway just prior to the wreck. Her blood alcohol content level was measured at .162 -- twice the legal limit.

Evidence presented in court revealed Amber Willemsen told a friend in jail that she'd had a few drinks on the night of the accident, but clearly remembers everything that happened.

Willemsen allegedly told that same friend in jail that the experience was "something to check off [her] bucket list" and said that the situation could have been much worse.

A developing story where an officer has been killed in an accident in Pearland at Countryclub and Broadway.
"I sat for a year and tried to figure out why it was him," she said in testimony. "He had so much more to offer than me -- he has a family that won't get to see him and a child who won't get to have the experience I've had with my children."

Willemsen also claimed she was pulled over on a Houston highway on suspicion of drunk driving before the crash with Ekpanya, but that officer took her to a local Denny's instead of arresting her.

The driver's side of Ekpanya's car was crushed, and he had to be extracted from the vehicle. Ekpanya died on the way to the hospital.
According to Harris County court records, Willemsen was out on bond for a May 29 charge for possession of methamphetamine. She received probation in October 2012 for driving while intoxicated.

Clear Creek ISD confirmed Willemsen worked as an assistant principal at Bauerschlag Elementary several years before the crash. A district spokesperson said Willemsen resigned in May 2012 to "take care of family."

According to never-before publicized reports given to Eyewitness News by Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne, Willemsen was involved in a prior wreck on June 10, 2015.

Yeni said evidence leads her to believe Willemsen may have been driving drunk then, too.

"No charges resulted from that. There was no arrest," Yenne said.

The D.A. also released a transcript of a phone call that driver had later with her insurance company in which the driver said, "You could just smell the liquor, like you could just smell it. She was very drunk."

Carmen Waldron went on to tell the insurance adjuster that, "They (police) didn't do a sobriety test on her."

Willemsen was not arrested or charged that night. Waldron said she asked the officer why. She told the adjuster, "He said that she wasn't drunk enough for a DWI, which is a lie."

At trial, testimony revealed the Houston police officer dropped Willemsen off at a Denny's and told her to find a ride and to get her life together.

D.A. Yenne wonders if Willemsen might never had driven drunk that night in 2016 if she'd been arrested in 2015.

"That was concerning to us. Perhaps if there had been some other intervention, we might not be here today," she said.

The Houston Police Department said it takes allegations of officer misconduct seriously, however there is no mention of any allegation of intoxication on the part of Willemsen in the police report from the crash in 2015.

Willemsen was sentenced to 32 years for intoxicated manslaughter.

Ekpanya left behind a 2-year-old son and a wife. His widow, Lucy Lugo, sent us a powerful statement she read in court about her husband.


"In my household there is no 5-99 range of how what you have done has affected us. I am deeply saddened for your children, for your parents, for Endy's mother, and the rest of the family, but especially for my son.

It was not just Endy's life that was cut short, it was our hopes, our dreams, and aspirations. You killed my future children and fatherhood, you killed fatherhood. Endy was the perfect father, provider, and just all around man. He didn't become that on his own. Since you never once bothered to ask about Endy as he laid dying at the crash site, let me tell you a little bit about him. He came from a Christian household where the mother had to sometimes sacrifice spending time with the children so she could attend medical school. At age 11 the family moved to the United States while the father stayed behind caring for a sick and elderly parent. Endy's mother, Dr. Addy Nnsewo, a physician at the time, was unemployed for six months until she was eventually pick up a minimum wage job while taking exams to qualify for residency training. Endy noted the sacrifices that his mother took and worked diligently as an adult to make mommy proud. He went on to earn an Associates degree from Adelphi University in Social Work, a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Bachelors degree in Sociology from Hofstra University. He attended a year of Law school at Ave Maria School of Law where he eventually decided the field was not for him, he did not believe he could have a lifelong fulfilling career as an attorney, which then turned his attention to the other side of law. He went against his mothers wishes and decided he wanted to become a Peace Officer. He pursued a Masters degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland and additionally went on to earn another Masters degree from the same University in Business Management. He did not do this alone, he had the support of his mother along with my own unconditional support. It was not easy, there were many sleepless nights, a lot of family time sacrificed, a lot of preparing for exams and job aplications. You have no clue what you have really done. Now all I have left in my home are his badge, his degrees, numerous news articles, medals of honor, challenge coins, plaques with recognition of his sacrifice, but I do not have him.

He was incredibly proud to be the head of our household, to be able to provide and protect his little family. He was an incredibly dedicated Officer, his days off were spent with us driving through the city of pearland learning the in's and outs of the roads. In our free time I would quizz him, with flashcards made by him, on things like legal statutes and lawful stops. How ironic is life, that we even practiced conducting field sobriety tests at home, with me being the test subject. Just a month before his death he shared with me how much he loved his Job, he tied with another officer for highest number of traffic stops and raked in the highest daily average traffic stops. He came home and told me he felt really good about making the leadership board and the way he saw it he was doing all of this for Julian, he was keeping the city safe and removing bad guys from the same streets our son would be growing up in. On another occasion he began a self initiated pursuit of a vehicle used in a burglary. He took himself off of a low priority call being that he was in the area of the robbery, he used his instincts and went against the travel description provided by dispatch and was eventually able to successfully locate the vehicle in question, call for back-up and save the night. One of his supervisors even commended him for his
"Rockstar" move on recognizing the probable suspect's vehicle.

Right now Endy would be working on his Phd, he would be holding our son's hand, guiding him through life, he would be holding me tight, he would be making his mother proud. Instead he lays in a grave because of the train wreck that your life has been. I have never met anyone so selfish, so careless, so overall undeserving of life, with such a heavy disregard for authority.

You killed a son, a brother, a family man. You killed fatherhood! Do you understand, you killed fatherhood!

When people told me Endy was a hero, I had a hard time accepting that. In my mind all I could think about was that he lost his life and did not even have a fighting chance. It isn't untill now that I have learned much more about that night, and how wreckless your life had been, that I can more easily accept his title as a hero. There was a citizen driving behind him, sopmeone whose life you could have easily taken had Endy not been in your way. Even if it wouldn't have been Justin Black, I'm sure it would have been someone else at some other time, maybe even an entire family. You are dangerous Amber and I do not believe you deserve freedom. I refuse to believe this was an act of god. As an adult, you made choices and disregarded those who tried to help you. God did not have you kill such a valuable man so you could become a better person because of it. You destroyed a family but this is not about you, this is about the type of life Endy lived and his sacrifice. He felt so passionate about his job that he willingly and eagerly showed up to work each day ready to serve and protect without hessitation. After his funeral you felt closure? And thought about writing a book? Really? And my son and my pain? Nothing. You have destroyed my family and I am sorry if for now I have no compassion in my heart. My heart is not as golden or forgiving as Endy's mom. I have a lot of anger, frustration, and a deep sadness that you will never know.

Sitting through this trial was agonizing and painful, especially when your defense argument circled around blaming Endy. How dare you allow for such a wild claim to be presented in front of a grieving widow and the mother of the man you killed. Blame was placed on everyone and everything except you. I do not believe that you only realized you were guilty only after the verdict. I had a tough time after the accident and still have a tough time today especially after learning that you previously rear ended someone while intoxicated and got a slap on the wrist. I was also angry at everything and everyone for a while but I eventually came to terms with the fact that the only person to blame here is you. A difficult day is coming, the day when I have to explain to my son how his father was killed by a drunk driver. You being incarcerated brings me no joy but it does bring me some type of peace.

This should have never happened, you had too many chances and you abused them, you had too much privilage and you knew it. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can bring Endy back and I hope you think long and hard about what you have done."
Tuesday, August 01, 2017 04:21PM
PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- A jury on Tuesday handed down a guilty verdict to a woman accused of killing a Pearland police officer while she was under the influence.

Police said Amber Willemsen, 38, slammed into Endy Ekpanya's police cruiser on East Broadway Street near Liberty Drive in Pearland in June 2016 while he was on duty.

The driver's side of Ekpanya's car was crushed, and he had to be extracted from the vehicle. Ekpanya died on the way to the hospital.

It was two days before his 31st birthday.

Investigators said evidence showed Willemsen, who sustained minor injuries in the crash, was going at least 67 miles per hour in the wrong lane when she hit Ekpanya head-on.

A developing story where an officer has been killed in an accident in Pearland at Countryclub and Broadway.

At the beginning of the trial, prosecutors said they had video of Willemsen buying vodka on her way to her job at The Ritz, a Houston's gentlemen's club, hours before she hit Ekpanya. They allege more video evidence showed she drank through the night.

According to Harris County court records, Willemsen was out on bond for a May 29 charge for possession of methamphetamine. She received probation in October 2012 for driving while intoxicated.

Clear Creek ISD confirmed Willemsen worked as an assistant principal at Bauerschlag Elementary several years before the crash. A district spokesperson said Willemsen resigned in May 2012 to "take care of family"

Ekpanya left behind a 2-year-old son and a fiancée.

Before the crash, Pearland hadn't had an officer killed in the line of duty in decades.

"Today's verdict is just the next step in the healing process for Endy's family, this department and our community. The effects of that terrible night in 2016 will continue to be felt for years to come. We will not forget Endy as we move forward, but with this verdict we can now continue the long process of healing," Pearland Police Chief J. L. Spires said in a statement, also thanking the first responders, crime scene investigators and prosecutors in Brazoria County who worked the case.


Pearland officer killed in head-on car crash

Sunday, June 12, 2016
PEARLAND, TX (KTRK) -- A Pearland police officer was killed in a head-on car crash Sunday morning.

Police tell us Endy Ekpanya, 30, was responding to a non-emergency call Sunday His lights and sirens were not on which is standard at 3:15am. His police cruiser crashed with a silver sedan near the intersection of Country Club and Broadway.

Officer killed in car crash at Country Club and Broadway in Pearland.

The driver side of the officer's car was crushed. Officer Ekpanya had to be extracted from his car and was unresponsive. He was taken by medical helicopter to the hospital, where he died.

The female driver of the sedan also had to be extracted. She was taken to the hospital with minor injuries and is expected to survive.

"Currently we suspect intoxication may be a factor on the part of the person who ran into the officer," a police spokesman said.

Ekpanya's aunt Ina is just heart-broken.

"I just remember him being just a sweet nephew, a sweet nephew," she told abc13.

Ina says he wanted to be a good role model to his son and his community. He became a police officer, she says, because he loved helping people.

There were no witnesses to the crash.

DPS is now investigating the crash to see what exactly happened. They will be reviewing the officer's dash cam video to see if there are any clues there.

Pearland hasn't had an officer killed in the line of duty in around 40 years.

Ekpanya leaves behind a 2-year-old son and a fiancee.