August 28, 2009

Indictments handed down in pipe deaths

A grand jury in Denver indicted three companies for their roles, mostly neglect, that allegedly led to five deaths at a hydroelectric plant in 2007.

Two executives, Philippe Goutagny, the owner and president of RPI Coatings Inc., and James Thompson, vice-president of RPI Coatings, were also indicted, the Denver Post reported Friday.

An Oct. 2, 2007, fire trapped five workers in the pipe they were relining at the plant. Rescue workers were too late reaching the workers, who died of asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The indictments allege the companies, RPI Coatings Inc., Xcel Energy, and Public Service Co. of Colorado failed to apply for a confined space working permit and failed to select a rescue team, plan for worker entrapment in the 4,000 foot pipe or evaluate the chances of a rescue team arriving on time.

The only road to the plant is a winding mountain road, the newspaper said.

This catastrophe could have been avoided if the companies had followed their critical safety procedures, said Greg Baxter, Occupational Safety and Health Administration regional administrator in Denver.

There should never be such a disregard for the safety of employees, he said.