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Tesoro sued by families of victims

The wrongful death lawsuit also names Shell Oil Co., the U.S. subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, saying Shell improperly designed and built heat exchangers, units that were the site of the explosion, when the plant was constructed in 1955. The lawsuit also alleges that Shell was negligent in maintaining and inspecting new heat exchangers from 1971, when the units were added, until it sold the plant to Tesoro in 1998.

SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS

Employees perished in refinery explosion near Seattle in 2010.

By Vicki Vaughan
[email protected]

Published: 08:50 p.m., Thursday, February 10, 2011

The families of six of seven employees killed last year in an explosion at Tesoro Corp.’s refinery near Seattle filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the company, saying Tesoro deliberately exposed workers to hazards that it had ignored.

The lawsuit also alleges that San Antonio-based Tesoro didn’t inspect aging equipment and didn’t abide by industry safety rules or state and federal laws dealing with refinery safety.

Tesoro spokesman Mike Marcy said Thursday that Tesoro does not comment on pending litigation. Tesoro has not filed a response.

The suit alleges that it was Tesoro’s negligence that led to an explosion and fire April 2 at the company’s plant in Anacortes, Wash., that killed seven workers.

The relatives of six of the dead were joined by a seventh plaintiff, a contractor who was injured in the blast, but who survived.

The lawsuit, filed in Washington state, seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

The Anacortes disaster was the focus of a six-month investigation by Washington state’s Department of Labor & Industries. On Oct. 4, the agency socked Tesoro with a record $2.4 million fine.

An agency official said the Anacortes explosion “could have been prevented and should have been prevented” if Tesoro had followed standard industry procedures and its own policies.

The agency sharply criticized Tesoro for sending poorly trained, unprotected workers into an area where 40-year-old equipment had been inadequately tested. When a vessel cracked, it spewed vapors that ignited and led to the fiery explosion, the agency said.

Washington regulators cited Tesoro for 39 willful violations and five serious violations.

Tesoro has appealed the fine.

The wrongful death lawsuit also names Shell Oil Co., the U.S. subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, saying Shell improperly designed and built heat exchangers, units that were the site of the explosion, when the plant was constructed in 1955.

The lawsuit also alleges that Shell was negligent in maintaining and inspecting new heat exchangers from 1971, when the units were added, until it sold the plant to Tesoro in 1998.

A spokesman for Shell said the company has not seen the lawsuit and is unable to comment.

Also named as defendants are three managers of the Anacortes refinery who were responsible for high-level decisions at the plant, according to the lawsuit.

The families suing on behalf of those who died are the relatives of Daniel Aldridge, Matthew Bowen, Darrin Hoines, Lew Janz, Kathryn Powell and Donna Van Dreumel.

The contractor who joined the suit is Donald Zimmerman, who was injured while delivering propane to the plant, according to the suit.

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