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City worker’s family files suit over his death

The family of a Houston equipment operator, killed when his work truck rolled over him last month, says the city is responsible for the man’s death because it neglected to properly inspect and maintain the vehicle.

According to the family’s lawsuit filed against the city of Houston, municipal workers failed to adequately inspect or repair vehicles — including the vacuum pump truck that crushed 75-year-old Charles Williams Sr. — after receiving complaints regarding malfunctions.

The lawsuit, filed June 20, said the city didn’t take its older model vehicles — like the truck Williams was using — out of service and also failed to develop and implement proper procedures to prevent brake malfunctions for its vehicles.

The family learned of problems about trucks from city employees who worked with Williams, said their attorney, Tony Buzbee. He said the suit was primarily filed to determine what happened during the May 31 incident.

City officials declined to comment on pending ligation, said Janice Evans, the mayor’s spokeswoman.

Williams, a city employee for nearly 18 years, was cleaning a sewer line in the 1600 block of Gray when the truck he was operating began to roll forward, authorities said.

He attempted to stop the truck by pushing against it, but he tripped and was struck by the vehicle, authorities said.

“This family naturally has questions and naturally wants to know what happened,” Buzbee said.

A judge granted a temporary restraining order, prohibiting city officials from changing, altering, repairing or destroying the truck used by Williams, Buzbee said. The order also allowed Buzbee and his staff to participate in the city’s investigation of the vehicle.

City officials have been resistant in coming to any agreement with him regarding the investigation, Buzbee said.

A court hearing is scheduled for the case Friday.

Claims were also brought against Vac-Con Inc., which supplies the vacuum pump trucks to the city.   Vac-Con officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

 

Anita Hassan
Houston Chronicle
June 29, 2012