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OSHA launches death investigation at Texas City plant

TEXAS CITY — Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on site of the Dallas Group of America’s Texas City plant Monday trying to find how and why a 26-year-old Texas City man was killed on the job during the weekend.

The family of Virgel James Stoker also retained plaintiff’s attorney Tony Buzbee to look into the circumstances of the man’s death.

Stoker was working at the Dallas Group’s facility at 301 Dock Road at the Port of Texas City about 10 p.m. Saturday when he somehow either fell into or was entangled in some mechanical equipment. An autopsy was performed Monday, but the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office had not determined the cause of death.

One of the things investigators will be looking at is whether Stoker was overcome by fumes or gases before he was killed.

The Dallas Group produces a number of adsorbent synthetic magnesium silicate products that mainly are used in the food industry. The company also is the country’s only manufacturer of ammonium chloride, which, if ingested or exposed in large doses can lead to drowsiness, mental confusion, tremors or even a coma, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

OSHA spokeswoman Elizabeth Todd said policy prevented her from commenting on an ongoing investigation.

The company likewise did not comment on the incident.

“The tragic accident that took place in our Texas City facility is being investigated,” the company said through a statement. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of Virgel Stoker at this difficult time.”

Meanwhile Janice Stoker was preparing to bury her son.

“He was such a good person,” Mrs. Stoker said. “I loved him and miss him. He was a big teddy bear.”

Mrs. Stoker noted that her son’s death comes near the second anniversary of when her brother Christopher Stoker died while on the job at a plant in Baytown. While Christopher’s death was because of a heart condition, Janice Stoker said the family already was bracing for the anniversary of his death when Virgel was killed.

“This has been a very rough years,” Mrs. Stoker said, adding that her father had died four years ago.

The pain of losing her son was somewhat tempered by the outpouring of support from Texas City residents.

“Everybody has been so good,” she said. “I want to thank them for loving my child. The community has really reached out to use and I really appreciate that.

“I just ask that they hang in with us and help keep me strong.”

Funeral services for Virgel Stoker are pending at Mainland Funeral Home in La Marque.

 

T. J. Aulds
Galveston Daily News
February 14, 2012
Texas City, Texas