Houston Crane Collapse Kills 4

A massive crane collapsed at a Houston oil refinery July 18, killing four workers and injuring seven others.

The 30-story crane, capable of lifting 1 million pounds, collapsed at a LyondellBasell refinery at approximately 1:20 p.m. Deep South Crane & Rigging owned the crane and employed the four workers killed in the collapse.

The deceased workers were identified as Marion “Scooter” Hubert Odom III, 41, of Highlands; John D. Henry, 33, of Dayton; Daniel “DJ” Lee Johnson, 30, also of Dayton; and Rocky Dale Strength, 30, of Santa Fe.

Four injured workers were taken to area hospitals, and an additional three employees were treated at the scene of the accident.

A statement on Deep South’s Web site read: “We are fully engaged and cooperating with OSHA in their investigation of the accident. Our common goal is to identify the root cause, correct any issue that may be found, and ensure that this type of tragic accident does not occur again.”

According to LyondellBassell, the crane was at the refinery for maintenance turnaround work. “There was no environmental impact,” the company’s statement read. “We will conduct a thorough investigation, working in cooperation with local and federal agencies.”

All remaining employees and contractors have been accounted for, LyondellBassell said.

Crane Fell on Tent

Media reports indicate that the crane collapsed on a nearby tent workers used to cool down, take a break or eat lunch. Brent Coon, an attorney with Brent Coon & Associates, said in a July 18 conference call that trailers, tents and other facilities should not be located within several hundred feet of operating units. The law firm represents the United Steelworkers and other unions and maintains an emergency task force to address such major incidents.

Coon said it is “disheartening” that companies still place temporary shelters so close to work sites. Companies often do this, he explained, so the work force can take breaks and still be in immediate proximity to the units. Placing such tents so close to the work units is a money-saving tactic.

“Otherwise, they’d have to transport these folks back and forth a little farther away from the units and that costs them lost time,” Coon pointed out.

OSHA investigators arrived to the scene July 19 to determine what caused the accident. While the cause is not yet known, Coon said during the conference call that a counterbalance on the crane may have shifted or come loose.

Refinery operations will continue at LyondellBasell.

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