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Vol. 74/No. 15      April 19, 2010

Washington State: 5 workers
killed in refinery explosion
(front page)
ANACORTES, Washington—Five workers were killed and two severely burned from a fire and explosion here at the Tesoro oil refinery April 2.

According to the Seattle Times, the early morning explosion “was so violent that many in Anacortes felt the shock wave across Fidalgo Bay… . A fireball lit the night sky over the plant.”

Six of the seven victims were members of the United Steelworkers, Local 12-591. Those killed were: Matthew Bowen, 31; Darren Hoines, 43; Daniel Aldridge, 50; Kathryn Powell, 29; and Donna Van Dreumel, 36. Matt Gumbel, 34, and Lew Janz, a supervisor, are in critical condition.

The explosion occurred in the naphtha unit. Naphtha is a volatile, flammable liquid derived during the refining process.

In April 2009 Washington State inspectors cited Tesoro’s Anacortes refinery for 17 “serious” safety violations and more than 130 lesser violations. The company was fined $85,000.

Last November the state reduced the penalty to $12,250 and lowered the number of serious violations to three.

As part of an agreement with the safety agency, Tesoro hired a safety consultant, who visited the plant for the first time last month.

At the Steelworkers union office in Anacortes, Brian Ricks, local financial secretary of Local 12-591, told Militant reporters that the union and the company have a safety program that investigates safety problems. When cited for violations, however, the company uses the appeal process to delay corrective action as long as possible.
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