On Wednesday May 24, 2017, a terrible industrial accident at a West Virginia natural gas odorization facility, Midland Resource Recovery, left two of the plant’s workers with fatal injuries, and another seriously harmed. According to reports published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail and U.S. News, the Barbour County explosion is currently being investigated, with important questions about what happened yet to be answered.
Report Indicates Workers Were Using Chemicals at Time of Blast
According to a report that was phoned in to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the workers involved in the blast – whose names have yet to be released – were cleaning a mercaptan tank when the incident occurred. Mercaptan is the chemical that is associated with a rotten egg smell, and is added to natural gas (which is otherwise odorless) in order to make it detectable. Typically, the biggest concern regarding mercaptan is inhalation and acute industrial exposure, which could lead to death in severe cases; combustion is not often a concern.
The explosion occurred within the empty tank, and news reports imply that the cause may have had something to do with chemicals that workers were using to clean the mercaptan tank. It is believed that workers were using bleach.
Little General Store Propane Explosion
The incident at Midland Resource Recovery is a painful reminder of the Little General Store, a gas and convenience store, propane explosion that occurred in Ghent, West Virginia, in January of 2007. Details published by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) reveal that the incident occurred when vapors from a propane storage tank ignited, causing the explosion that left four people dead and five others seriously injured.
Investigating Serious Workplace Accidents
When an explosion happens, federal agencies step in to investigate the precise cause of the explosion and make recommendations moving forward. The CSB conducted a thorough investigation on the Little General Store incident, ultimately uncovering that the cause was leaked vapors, as noted above.
Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the CSB have already taken an active role in determining the cause of the Midland Resource Recovery blast. A spokeswoman for the CSB told reporters that the natural gas odorization company had been contacted with a request for additional information; once information is received by the CSB, it will be thoroughly reviewed, and the agency will determine whether or not it needs to send a team of investigators to the site.
An OSHA spokesperson said that OSHA had launched an investigation. The spokesperson also stated that OSHA had no record of inspecting the Barbour County facility in the past five years.
Damages for Families of West Virginia Victims
Details of the injuries of the worker who survived the blast have not been published, but the worker was transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital via helicopter, implying severe harm. Injuries that are common in explosion accidents include serious burn injuries, blunt trauma injuries, amputation injuries, middle ear damage, hemorrhage, fracture, traumatic brain injury, and blast lung. These injury types can make returning to life as normal impossible, potentially leaving the affected victim dependent on medical care for the remainder of their life. This can be extremely painful, and psychologically challenging, for the affected victim and their family. Injuries of this nature and severity are also associated with economic losses.
The families of the workers who were killed suffered greatly too, even if their injuries are not physical. Losing a loved one, a partner, a child, a parent, a friend, an income earner, and someone you depend upon and cherish is a devastating experience.
To all of those affected by this tragic accident, the West Virginia gas explosion attorneys at the offices of Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C. want to offer our deepest condolences.
When gas explosions change lives and leave victims and their families with irreversible harm, our legal team will advocate for you. Our experienced West Virginia gas explosion lawyers can represent you in seeking compensation for your losses in the form of economic and non-economic damages, and will work hard to help you understand your rights to pursue damages and hold the negligent party liable for harm. Bailey Javins & Carter, L.C. was one of the leading law firms in helping victims of the Little General Store recover the compensation they deserved, and can help you, too. Contact us today at (304) 932-4639 for your free consultation and more information.