INJURED WORKER IN MOBILE RIVER BARGE BLAST FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST FOUR COMPANIES
May 1, 2013
BY: Brendan Kirby, al.com
MOBILE, Alabama – One of the injured workers from last week’s barge explosion on the Mobile River has filed a lawsuit against the companies involved in cleaning the vessels and operating a nearby tugboat.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Mobile County Circuit Court, seeks unspecified damages and contends that the companies negligently caused the accident that sent plaintiff Casey Tyson and two others to the hospital.
Two of those men remain in critical condition at the University of South Alabama Medical Center. The hospital released Tyson Tuesday, but his attorneys at Cunningham Bounds LLC said he is receiving further treatment at a burn center in Dallas near his home.
The Mobile company that was in charge of cleaning the barge, Oil Recovery Co. of Alabama, is named as a defendant along with three others. They are AEP River Operations, of Chesterfield, Missouri, which owns the tugboat “Safety Runner;” D&S Marine Service, of Houma, Louisiana, which was involved in towing the barges; and Kirby Inland Marine, of Houston, which owned the barges.
Citing the ongoing investigation, a representative from D&S Marine Service declined to comment. Representatives from the other companies did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Tyson’s attorney, George “Skip” Finkbohner, said workers were venting oil vapors from the tanks of the barges when an outside ignition source sparked the first explosion. He said he was not prepared to say exactly what happened.
“There are going to be a lot of causes to this,” said Finkbohner, adding that his firm would know more after getting a chance to question witnesses under oath during the pretrial investigation. “I think the responsible thing to do is to dig down like we always do at this law firm.”
Finkbohner said the Tyson family hired his firm on Friday and that it was able to get investigators to examine the barges before workers destroyed them.
Finkbohner said he believes the “Safety Runner” was adjacent to the barges and was not involved in the cleaning or docking of those vessels. He said the tugboat’s engines were running at the time.
“Right now, it looks like the tugboat is involved as a possible ignition source,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say the ignition did not happen down in the tanks.”
When the spark did occur, by all accounts, the results were spectacular. Each barge contained six large fuel tanks, which the U.S. Coast Guard has said were empty. Seven explosions rocked the area on April 24 and into the morning of April 25.
Tyson was working for a communications company and was performing work on the tugboat’s electronics system on the night of the accident, Finkbohner said. He said his client had gotten off the tug and then returned to leave a bill for the captain.
“He had nothing to do with any of this,” he said. “He was an innocent bystander.”