TEXAS CITY — An attorney for the family of a BP refinery worker who died at the Texas City plant on Monday says an unexpected pressure buildup appeared to be caused by equipment failure, rather than operator error.
Tony Buzbee said bolts on a high-pressure water filtration vessel “were very old and in terrible condition” and, according to his expert, appeared to have been in place for years.
The cover that blew off the water filtration vessel weighed more than 500 pounds, he said.
Buzbee and his consultants are allowed access to the accident site under a court order.
He said the bolts blew off “like projectiles ... sending the cover into the air and landing on Mr. Gracia.”
William Joseph Gracia, 56, was a 32-year veteran and shift foreman at the refinery.
Buzbee said he was seeking information from people who witnessed the explosion or had knowledge about the bolts or the cover.
BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said the company “will look at all of the circumstances surrounding this tragic accident and when that’s complete, we will know what happened and why. We’re just not going to speculate prior to the completion of our investigation.”
It was the third accidental death at the refinery in as many years and the third since 15 people were killed and almost 200 were injured in the March 2005 explosions.
Buzbee said plant workers have suggested the unit with the filtration vessel was not properly turned around, or prepared for the restart, which could have resulted in the accident.
In July 2006, a contract worker died when he was crushed between a pipe stack and a mechanical lift. In June 2007, a contract worker was electrocuted at the plant.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated both incidents, and BP was not cited in either case. The agency is also investigating Monday’s accident.
The Galveston Daily News
January 17, 2008
Attorney: Equipment failed in BP death
By Mark Collette
The Daily News
Published January 17, 2008