Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

Shell worker’s death not a suicide, widow asserts

Posted: 08/13/2009 04:46:23 PM PDT

Updated: 08/13/2009 05:36:19 PM PDT

ANTIOCH — Rory Maddock thought that after a jury declared her husband’s death an accident, she could finally put to rest the rumors and doubt about how he died.

She’s still waiting for peace.

And her protracted fight for his death benefits — more than three months after the body of William “Bill” Maddock was found in a water tank at the Shell Refinery in Martinez, where he was a 22-year employee — is a reminder that closure is still in the offing.

The law firm handling Maddock’s workers’ compensation claim for Shell stands by its assertion that the death was a suicide. The insurance carrier sent Rory Maddock a letter denying her claim.

Suicide? Not a chance, said Maddock’s widow, who began radiation treatment for breast cancer eight days before her husband’s disappearance.

“He never would have given up on me,” the Antioch resident said. “He was not done.”

The only option left for Rory Maddock is to appeal. But having to do that is frustrating because of the seeming clarity of the jury’s decision, said Ralph Mann, an attorney for the Maddock family.

“Before the actual determination by a jury, there was ambiguity,” Mann said. “But now that the jury has decided it was an accidental death, they still continue to insist it was a suicide.”

Steve Lesher, a spokesman for the refinery, declined to comment on the claim and deferred to the Oakland-based law firm handling the case. The firm declined to comment.

But even with a mortgage to pay and medical bills piling up — Maddock’s salary as a logistics coordinator provided most of their income — Rory Maddock, a longtime instructional aide in the Antioch Unified School District, said she is more concerned about dispelling suspicions that her husband of 30 years ended his own life.

“This was so much more than material. I wasn’t going to give up on him. No way,” she said.

She said she’s so focused on clearing her husband’s name that she hardly thinks about the fact that she was battling breast cancer during the months between the death of her husband — a 54-year-old father of two grown sons — and a July 16 coroner’s inquest ruling out suicide.

“It’s difficult when you’re going through the mourning process and dealing with what was going on,” said Donna Burcio, a longtime friend of the Maddocks. “(The family) needs to move on. They need to mourn his death instead of having to defend him.”

Bill Maddock disappeared during a graveyard shift in the early-morning hours of April 29, and was found that night at the bottom of a 30-foot-high water tank. He wore a backpack filled with about 30 pounds in scrap metals he had sewn into compartments, sparking rumors and suspicion that he might have killed himself.

The mystery was enough for the county sheriff to convene a coroner’s inquest, a procedure usually reserved for deaths of people in police custody.

Rory Maddock said her husband had been climbing the refinery towers for exercise, as part of a mutual commitment to keep fit while she received treatment for cancer. He was wearing the backpack instead of a commercial weight vest because as a self-taught craftsman and woodworker, he refused to buy anything he could make himself, she said.

The tower climbs, Rory Maddock said, were inspired in part by the panoramic view from the tops of the towers and to avoid what he considered the monotony of working out in a gym.

“He’d come home and say, ‘Babe, I climbed three towers today,'”‰” Rory Maddock said. “And he loved constellations. The (top of the) tank had a beautiful view of the trains and Delta.”

An investigator for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health testified at the Maddock inquest that the water tower guardrail was 37 inches high, shorter than the 42 to 45 inches prescribed by the agency. That could have been a tripping hazard for Maddock, who stood 6-foot-5 and weighed about 280 pounds, the investigator said.

Other questions remain, like the fact that an autopsy reported Bill Maddock had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal level of intoxication. His family is adamant that he never drank on the job and insists that some other reason, such as his diabetes, caused that test result.

A toxicology report filed with the coroner’s office stated it is possible the alcohol was a by-product of decomposition.

But beyond the technical details of what the jury deemed an accidental death, Rory Maddock wants people to know that her husband had a lot to look forward to.

She described a jovial man who was thrilled that sons Bradley, 25, and Colin, 19, had thrived as athletes when he struggled with his own athletic shortcomings. He was secretly proud of the fact that his sons would routinely beat him in basketball games in their driveway.

He was the consummate self-taught craftsman and woodworker and the Maddock home gives testimony to his handiwork, from the refinished wood floors that came from an old Oakland building to the backyard brick pizza oven he built.

His projects were piling up, and he attacked them with relish. Patio furniture, moldings, kitchen counters, a skylight for the foyer; they were all his doing. That was in addition to the numerous car engines he restored once he figured out how to do it.

Recently, Rory Maddock said, he rearranged his life to help her through the breast cancer, making himself available for all her appointments and treatments since she was diagnosed in November, often switching shifts to be there for a morning checkup. There were the free-range-chicken pot pies he made from scratch because he knew she didn’t have an appetite but might have a bit of her favorite meal. There were Cheerios by candlelight.

“He was fun. He loved life,” she said.

Source Article

royaldutchshellplc.com and its also non-profit sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

0 Comments on “Shell worker’s death not a suicide, widow asserts”

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: