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Inquest under way into death of Shell refinery worker

By Malaika Fraley
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 07/16/2009 01:20:20 PM PDT

Updated: 07/16/2009 01:38:33 PM PDT

MARTINEZ — An inquest is under way today into the death of a veteran Shell Martinez Refinery worker who drowned in a water tower at the facility in April.

Early testimony from William “Bill” Maddock’s widow and co-workers indicates that the 54-year-old Antioch resident may have fallen into the open tank after climbing the 30-foot tower for exercise on April 29. A jury will decide the mode or manner of death after testimony concludes this afternoon.

Maddock went missing while on shift at the facility. After an extensive search, his body was found in the tank with a backpack filled with fitness weights strapped to his back. The shoulder straps were hinged together with duct tape, witnesses testified.

Maddock’s wife, Rory Maddock, said Maddock told her he frequently climbed towers at the refinery for exercise. She said she was unaware that he used weights during the climbs, but said he would use duct tape to secure his backpack while on nature hikes.

Co-workers said Maddock was in a positive mood that day, and they saw no signs to indicate he was depressed or contemplating suicide.

The Contra Costa County coroner’s office routinely hold inquests surrounding death that occur in-custody or otherwise involve law enforcement. Although law enforcement was not involved in Maddock’s death, Sheriff’s Warren Rupf, who also serves as the county coroner, convened an inquest because of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the drowning and the fact that there was no witnesses.

Check back with the Contra Costa Times later today for results of the inquest, which continues at 1 p.m. in Martinez City Council chambers.

Reach Malaika Fraley at [email protected].

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