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Widow, coworker file suit against WTI

November 21, 2012
Morning Journal News

LISBON - The wife of a Heritage WTI employee, who died following an accident at the plant last December, and an employee alleging he was injured in the same accident filed a joint lawsuit in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court seeking in excess of $175,000 in damages.

According to the court documents, on last Dec. 17, Thomas Bailey and John Bechak were unloading potentially explosive materials, splitting a 55-gallon drum of the material into smaller amounts to make it safer to incinerate.

The two men were using metal shovels to move the materials, which included a mixture of zirconium, hafnium, niobium and titanium. The floor was concrete and the lawsuit contends a static electricity buildup may have caused a spark, which in turn caused the materials to explode.

The lawsuit also noted the drums of materials came to WTI packed in neutral spirits, liquids to keep them from coming into contact with the atmosphere or water, because of the possibility of an explosion. However, the lawsuit claims, the employees were directed by a supervisor to drain the oil and protective liquids from the barrels, which left the materials exposed to the air.

During the explosion which followed, Bailey was reportedly thrown 60 feet and both men received serious burns.

The lawsuit contends WTI, the company which generated the waste and those who shipped the waste were responsible for the death of Bailey and permanent injuries to Bechak caused by the explosion.

The week of the explosion the Journal reported on Dec. 20 that Bailey, of Glenmoor, had died in a Pittsburgh hospital, while Bechak had remained in stable condition at the time. It was reported as the first death of an employee at the plant, which is located in East Liverpool.

In August it was reported WTI was fined more than $150,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Those fines were partly due to safety violations investigated following the explosion the previous December.



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