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HISTORY OF FEDERAL VIOLATIONS FOR COMPANIES IN EXPLOSION LAWSUIT

May 1, 2013

Reported by: Derrick Rose, WPMI Local 15 News

MOBILE, Ala (WPMI) -- Two of the four companies being sued by a man injured the during barge explosions along the Mobile River have a history of serious violations with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, federal records show. Those companies, Kirby Inland Marine and Oil Recovery Company are the same businesses which own the barges and the location where the spark during a cleaning process caused the blast that left 3 men critically injured.

In 1989, OSHA investigators found 8 serious violations at Oil Recovery Company, records show. The violations included not knowing OSHA regulations, not performing a required hazard assessment, problems with face and eye protection as well as issues with the company's own hazard communications plan.

OSHA proposed a $3240 fine, but only required the company to pay $1000.

In 2009, OSHA investigators noted a major health violation at Kirby Inland Marine, having found issue with the company's respiratory protection and problems with personal protective equipment. The violation cost the company a $4500 fine.

In 2006, an employee complained of safety issues at Kirby, but it was unclear from the records how the complaint was resolved.

There was no response from either company to calls seeking comment Wednesday.

It was hard to turn away from the pictures on April 24 as a series of seven explosions illuminated the night sky with a fiery glow of flames stretching high. It was even harder one week later for one of the men injured, Casey Tyson, to let another day pass without holding someone accountable.

In addition to Oil Recovery and Kirby Inland, Tyson blamed AEP River Operations and D & S Marine Service, according to the lawsuit filed by Tyson's attorney in Mobile County Circuit Court Tuesday.

While investigators have only said a spark ignited flammable vapors, the lawsuit claimed the 4 companies were negligent in prevention explosions and fire hazards. "The Defendants allowed and/or caused gasoline vapors to migrate, ignite and explode," attorney George W. Finkbohner, III wrote.

"We have gathered statements from the crew and physical evidence; we're piecing the evidence and the statements together," U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile Spokesperson Lt. Michael Clausen said of the ongoing investigation.

None of the companies named in the brief responded to the lawsuit.

Tyson had been transferred from a hospital in Mobile to a Dallas-area hospital where he was listed in fair condition Wednesday night. Justin Benoit and George Erickson were listed in critical condition at USA Medical Center's burn unit.

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