Lawsuit Filed in Nitrogen Deaths

Lawsuit Filed in Nitrogen Deaths

The Valero Energy Corp. is at fault in the deaths of two contractors who suffocated in a tank at a Delaware City, Delaware oil refinery, lawyers are contending in a new lawsuit against the company.

John Ferguson, 29, of Westminster, Md., and John Lattanzi, 57, of Laurel Springs, N.J., died Sunday. Matrix Service Co., the refinery’s maintenance contractor, employed both men.

Lawyers representing the families of the victims said that the men did not know they were standing on a nitrogen filled tank that violated their permit that specifically ruled out nitrogen exposure on the job.  In addition, Robert E. McCann, a lawyer for one of the men’s family, said that refinery managers violated safety protocols by sending the men out to work near an open hatched tank without proper safety equipment.

Because there was no warning from the supervisors and no indication of the presence of nitrogen, the men’s deaths could have been prevented, McCann has stated, and therefore are the direct result of company policy.

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is looking into the incident and will present their findings this Thursday.  Another Delaware independent investigation and one by the company is also being carried out.

Medical reports show that Ferguson suffered head and face injuries that could have been the result of him falling into the tank accidentally.  There is speculation that Lattanzi went after Ferguson and tried to save him.  The men were suffocated by the nitrogen and died in the tank.

In 2003 the CSHIB issued a warning to businesses operating with nitrogen about the gas’ potentially deadly effects.




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