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    Default LODD--British Columbia--2 Paramedics Killed at Industrial Rescue

    Two Paramedics were killed after responding to an industrial accident at a decommissioned mine in British Columbia, Canada. The attached story is from Canadian Broadcast Corporation, details are limited at this time.


    Four people died Wednesday as a result of an accident at the decommissioned Sullivan mine in Kimberley in southeastern British Columbia.

    "It's devastating," said David Parker, a spokesman for mine owner Teck Cominico.

    Parker said the victims included a mine worker, a consultant and two paramedics. He said they don't know what caused the accident and didn't want to speculate.

    Kimberley Mayor James Ogilvie said the four people were transported to the regional hospital in Cranbrook, which is about a 30-minute drive south of the municipality.

    Details are sketchy, but the Canadian Press reported that someone doing reclamation work in the old mine called 911, saying someone had been hurt in a shaft.

    When the paramedics arrived, they were also overcome and suffered suspected cardiac arrest, said a government official.

    Ogilvie said the local fire department was then called in to help.
    "Our fire department responded to a call that was given to us by the B.C. Ambulance Service, requesting assistance up at the mine site. Our people went there and found there [were] at least four people in serious difficulty.
    "The problem occurred at a pumping station. Just exactly what has happened we don't know . . ."

    The Sullivan mine was the world's largest lead-zinc mine from 1917 to 2001, when it was closed by Teck Cominco.
    Kimberley has a population of nearly 7,000, and has been redeveloping itself as a tourist and retirement destination since the mine's closure.

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    Default Updated Information--Hydrogen Sulphide Causes Deaths

    Update from Canadian Press, it sounds like things went very wrong.

    Four killed in B.C. mining accident
    May 17, 2006. 05:03 PM
    CANADIAN PRESS

    KIMBERLEY, B.C. — Four people who died in a mining accident at Teck Cominco’s decommissioned Sullivan mine in southeastern British Columbia may have been overcome by poisonous hydrogen sulphide fumes, Kimberley’s mayor said Wednesday.

    RCMP said the first victim may have been dead for two days and the search for him after he failed to come home led to the other three deaths.

    Mayor Jim Ogilvie said the tragic chain reaction began when a contractor testing acid-tainted water at an enclosed pumping station went missing.

    Police said in a news release no one raised the alarm until Wednesday morning.

    Ogilvie said an employee of Teck Cominco Ltd. (TSX:TEK.SV.B), which owns the old mine, discovered the man floating in the well of the above-ground pump house.

    He went to his rescue after calling 911 but was himself overcome, Ogilvie said.

    Two paramedics from the B.C. Ambulance Service responding to the call were also struck down, to be found by members of the Kimberley fire department that had followed up the initial emergency call.

    “When they got to the site of the emergency . . . they found there were four people down at the time,” said Ogilvie.

    “They donned their gear to go into hazardous atmospheres and confined spaces . . . They removed three people and one was left.”

    “The other three were transferred to hospital but I understand now that all four have been pronounced dead.”

    Police confirmed the body of one of the victims was still at the mine site and the coroner had declared the area unsafe until it was cleared by inspectors.

    Ogilvie said he was told the four may have succumbed to hydrogen sulphide, a toxic gas fatal in minute quantities.

    Teck Cominco spokesman David Parker said the company did not yet have details of the accident.

    Parker, director of communications and sustainability, confirmed the dead included a Teck employee, an outside consultant contracted to work on the mine’s decommissioning and two ambulance paramedics.

    Oglivie said all four were from Kimberley, a mountain community of about 6,600 about 500 kilometres east of Vancouver.

    “Four deaths in a community our size is a very serious situation,” he said. “There’ll be no one that isn’t touched in some way by this accident.”

    A spokesman for Bill Bennett, minister of state for mines, said Bennett and Health Minister George Abbott would fly to the small mountain community.

    “This is an absolute horror what happened today,” a subdued Bennett, who represents a Kootenay riding hear the mine site, said in Victoria.

    A spokeswoman for the B.C. Ambulance Service, Susan Dolinski, said she had no details except that an ambulance paramedic team had responded to a call from the mine.

    Ogilvie said he understood the dead paramedics had hazardous-materials training but were not wearing protective gear when they entered the ground-level pumping station.

    The pumping-station well is about two metres across, he said.

    The Teck employee who made the initial emergency call found the contractor floating in the well and believed he had drowned, Ogilvie said.

    Ogilvie said Teck was expected to maintain the system that collected and pumped acid-drainage water from the disused mine indefinitely.

    Teck’s website said the underground mine dewatering system collects contaminated water and sends it for treatment and final discharge into the St. Mary River.

    The plant treats contaminated water associated with acid rock drainage. It had two operating campaigns in the spring and fall of 2004. Teck said effluent discharge during those periods met all provincial permit requirements.

    The mine’s underground workings were being used as a reservoir to store contaminated water acid mine drainage.

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    Words fail me. Devastating for any community, let alone for such a small town like Kimberley, to say the least.

    My condolences to the families and co-workers of the 2 paramedics, BCAS and the Kimberley Fire Department.
    September 11th - Never Forget

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    My Deputy is on shift with BCAS right now, and scheduled to head to Kimberley tomorrow to help cover. There is still an investigation to perform, but this initially appears to be a case of lack of PPE (i.e. SCBA) in an unproven environment. There will be more to come in the next few days but obviously we must give time for the community to deal with the critical and sensitive matters.

    Very tragic, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, and community. It is always hard to deal with the loss of friends and co-workers, but particularly in a small community such as this where everyone knows the victims well.

    On a positive note, kudos to the Kimberley Fire Dept and Chief Becker's crew who did an excellent and safe job in a difficult and dangerous situation.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    Default Tragic coincidence

    This past week,Australia celebrated the rescue of two miners trapped for 14 days.But mourned their workmate who perished.

    And now this tragedy unfolds. My deepest sympathy to family and friends of these guys--and I salute anybody who is in Mine Rescue Teams, anywhere in the world.

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    I was in the gym working on the stairmaster, and saw the news of this. There was a report of possible HC2O (?) poisoning. It bothers me that we lost two medics to something like this. Just not cool, entering a potential confined space without gear. Kinda makes me glad that the Medics and Ambulances here have at least two air packs onboard at all times. I know there are a lot of variables that we will never know, but I guess its the shipboard FF in me that is speaking out. Plus I just dont like confined spaces, I guess. In any case a very tragic incident, that falls on the heels of the news of having lost a second FX Co police officer, and another funeral to attend.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    Why do we continue to attempt rescues without the right equipment and sufficiant manpower? Will we ever learn?

    Until the mindset of "we have to get in there now" changes, we will continue to read about senseless fatalities such as this.

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    More to the story...

    Four dead in Sullivan mine mystery. Chemicals in the air believed to blame for 'extremely rare' incident

    Daphne Bramham, with files from Derrick Penner, Larry Pynnand Miro Cernetig., Vancouver Sun Published: Thursday, May 18, 2006

    KIMBERLEY -- When a mining contractor mysteriously disappeared at Teck Cominco's Sullivan mine, a second man was sent to look for him.

    He found the contractor's body.

    The man led two other rescuers to the body.

    All three died.

    The contractor had gone for a routine monthly check on the quality of the water that was being collected from the decommissioned mine's waste rock pile.

    To do that, he had to go into a small plywood shed that's about three metres by three metres by 21/2 metres high. In the shed, there's a sump pump and pipes coming in and going out. There's also a small reservoir or weir from which samples are taken to test the water's quality.

    It was the contractor's job to monitor the quality of that water at each of the sheds along the pipeline that extends about a kilometre from the collection channels around the waste rock dumps to Teck Cominco's treatment plant.

    The contractor did the sampling once a month. On a normal day, he would have made a notation and left.

    Monday was not a normal day. Something had caused an oxygen deficiency and likely before he even knew what had happened, the contractor died.

    But no alarm was raised until early Wednesday morning. The contractor's partner called Teck Cominco to report the man missing. Teck dispatched one of its employees to the shed. According to witnesses interviewed by the RCMP, the Teck employee got to the site, found the contractor's body and called 911.

    The B.C. Ambulance Service dispatched one ambulance and called the Kimberley fire department.

    According to the RCMP, two paramedics -- Kim Weitzel, 35, and Shawn Currier, 21 -- met the Teck employee at the site and went to the shed. None of them came out.

    The other two men who died are believed to be contractor Doug Erickson, 49, and Teck Cominco employee Bob Newcombe.

    What makes their deaths so shocking is that the mine ceased operations Dec. 21, 2001. It's now being reclaimed and two of the dead are people who were working to return the huge lead, zinc, silver mine's site to a more natural state.

    What happened is not at all clear. Although early reports suggested that all four were overcome by hydrogen sulphide, no one would confirm that by day's end. All anybody would say is that for some reason, the shed didn't have enough oxygen for them to breathe.

    What everyone said at the end of the day was that this has never happened before anywhere. B.C.'s chief mining inspector Fred Hermann called it "the first incident of its kind that I have heard of. It is extremely rare."

    It's perhaps why the paramedics went into the shed. They don't have masks.

    But Fred Platteel, the head of the B.C. Ambulance Service, said paramedics are trained to assess a situation. For some reason, they must have believed they'd be safe. But they weren't.

    When the three didn't come out, firefighters -- who had arrived on the scene after the paramedics -- scrambled into their air packs. They brought them out and they were taken to ambulance to Cranbrook Hospital where emergency room staff had been told to expect three victims "from some sort of mining accident," according to Dr. Joe Kotlarz, the East Kootenay region's medical health officer.

    Every physician in Cranbrook was called in. All the nursing staff was called in. They split into three teams to await the ambulances. The operating room was shut down in case it was needed.

    When the ambulances arrived, the teams tried to resuscitate the victims -- just as the ambulance staff had. But within minutes, at close to 10:30 a.m., they were pronounced dead.

    'THEY'RE FAMILY'

    It was a horrifying moment for the emergency room staff. They didn't just know two of the dead. They were colleagues and co-workers.

    "When you work in an emergency room, you see the paramedics on a daily basis. They're family. You don't expect caregivers to be the victims," Kotlarz said. Kotlarz himself is an emergency room physician and he, too, knew the paramedics well.

    Two of the victims were identified by family members as paramedics Weitzel and Currier.

    Weitzel was described as a "very caring and affectionate and responsible" person by her brother-in-law, Norman Weitzel of Cranbrook.

    He said she'd worked about three years as a paramedic, and had married his brother, George, a Kimberley resident employed at the area's Skookumchuck pulp mill, about 10 years ago. The couple had no children.

    "They were soulmates," a shaken Norman Weitzel said.

    Weitzel said what he knows mostly about the accident comes from the news media. "I find it hard to believe," he said, only two hours after learning about the deaths. "I don't think it's really sunk in yet."

    Kimberley pharmacy owner Art Thorrougood used to see Weitzel come into the store several times a week and remembered her as a friendly and caring paramedic.

    "The people she's helped in the ambulance, she called to find out how they were doing," even after they were out of hospital.

    A patient, Thorrougood added, "wasn't just another body going into the ambulance" to Weitzel.

    Currier was tearfully described Wednesday by his aunt Monica Currier as "a nice kid," who was passionately pursuing a career in emergency services.

    Monica said he grew up in Cranbrook and recalled that he just recently finished training to become a paramedic.

    "I know he had been volunteering with the fire department, I think even out of high school," Monica said. "It was something he was determined [about] and focused on doing."

    Monica remembers him as kind and outgoing young man who was close to his family and friends. "He was a very sweet boy, he was always so kind and so friendly," she said. "He's one of those people who if you meet him, you just like him, you can't help it."

    She added that while Shawn worked hard, he was the type of person who "wouldn't forget about other people."

    "He knew where he was going with his life and he had a very bright future," Monica said. "We all expected big things from him, and he was getting there."

    Shawn is survived by an older brother in Cranbrook and his parents, Bob and Lori Currier, who now live in Red Deer.

    The dead consultant was employed by Pryzm Environmental of Cranbrook.

    The consultant's boss, Pryzm owner John Przeczek, said he had worked for Interior Reforestation, another environmental consulting company based in Cranbrook, up until about a year ago.

    "I'm not very clear-minded right now," he said over the phone, fighting back tears. "I really don't have any of the details. I just don't know. All I know is that I lost a real good friend. I'm sorry. I can't help you any more."

    While the three victims were being transported to Cranbrook hospital -- the fourth wasn't taken off the site until sometime later -- RCMP set up a checkpoint at the mine gate to ensure no one entered the area. So little was known about the cause of the deaths that nobody was allowed on the site without protective gear until monitoring equipment was brought in and the air tested.

    Meanwhile, in Victoria, Hermann had got a call. There had been an accident at a mine -- not an active mine but the Sullivan mine that had been out of operation since Dec. 21, 2001.

    GET A PLANE

    The chief mining inspector got Mines Minister Bill Bennett out of a cabinet meeting. At the time neither knew that people had died. They only knew there had been a serious accident.

    Bennett immediately got his staff to book a plane to bring him to Kimberley along with a phalanx of officials including Health Minister George Abbott and deputy health minister Penny Ballem.

    Bennett's staff started cancelling his heavy schedule -- a schedule loaded down with events.

    "It is a sad and tragic irony, but this is Mining Week," Bennett said in an interview.

    Bennett had planned a noon news conference where he had intended to tell journalists how for eight of the past 10 years mining has been the safest heavy industry in the province, with accidents down 85 per cent.

    He was supposed to deliver a celebratory dinner speech in Vancouver to the Canadian Institute of Mining.

    Over the next couple of hours, Bennett said things seemed to change every half hour. Things that seemed to be facts in the morning, didn't seem so clear by late afternoon when Bennett met reporters, flanked by officials from the company, the RCMP, the health ministry and others.

    While government officials were gathering and determining their responses, Teck Cominco called in its emergency response team from Trail.

    Other experts were also being called in. The coroner. Counsellors for the families and friends. Communications and media relations experts.

    In Victoria, Premier Gordon Campbell promised a full investigation into the accident. But as he rose in the legislature, he praised the bravery of the paramedics who perished and said he was praying for the families who suddenly lost a loved one.

    "This accident is a sobering reminder of the dangers emergency workers face every day in B.C. as they risk their lives attempting to save others," said Campbell.

    A SAFETY ISSUE

    "To wake up in the morning and think that the day about to start is a typical day, and then to find that out of the blue one of your loved ones is gone, creates a hole in your life which is difficult for any of us to really comprehend until we go through it."

    NDP leader Carole James said the accident was a reminder that legislators need to by vigilant in protecting workplace safety.

    "As legislators, a day like today is really a reminder of our duty to strive as hard as we can to make sure that the people of this province who go to work every day come home safely at the end of the day," she told the legislature.

    "I know a town like Kimberly will pull together to provide support to those families. They will do everything they can. I know we send along our wishes to all the people of Kimberly as they go through this very difficult time."

    In Vancouver, Teck Cominco CEO Don Lindsay said the company will cooperate fully in the investigation. He added that a Teck Cominco emergency response team from Trail is among the company personnell on site in Kimberley.

    "Today's events are heartbreaking for all of Teck Cominco's employees and for everyone in this community," said Don Lindsay, President and CEO of Teck Cominco Limited.

    "Our hearts and thoughts go out to the loved ones and friends of those whose lives were lost today," he added.

    Back in Kimberley, RCMP started the awful job of trying to contact relatives.

    Up at the minesite, Danny Sivorot was at the gate. He'd been called off his job working on a railway tunnel to man the mine's main gate. He knew the mine well. He worked as a heavy-duty mechanic at the Sullivan mine just as his father before him had.

    "There was never a major accident at this mine. There was always one [death] here or there, but with quite a space between them," he said. "This definitely a blow to the town."

    One of the people he turned away was Bill Roberts, a hard-rock miner who loved the mine and its men so much he wrote a book called The Best Miners in the World.

    "This is pretty devastating for a town like Kimberley," he said. "They've been running this operation for 100 years and there have been 73 deaths, which is not bad considering. But four deaths in one clump. . . ." Roberts voice trailed off.

    If it was a gas such as hydrogen sulphide, he said, "You don't know it's on you, and you're down."

    As the unseasonably hot day dragged on, briefings were held with people such as Mayor Jim Oglivie.

    'I KNOW THEM ALL'

    Shortly after 3 p.m., Kotlarz went to the debriefing with hospital staff. "There were a lot of tears in the room," he said.

    Slowly word was getting out about the accident both in Cranbrook and Kimberley about who it might have been. All of the victims are from the area.

    "I know them all," Oglivie said in the late afternoon. "It's very shocking. The accident is worse than any when the mine was open. It was a very, very safe mine. It's a tragic situation. Being in a small community, you know almost everyone or you've been involved with their family and friends."

    Back at the mine site, Hermann had arrived. The emergency team from Trail arrived soon after 4 p.m., at about the time that the mines minister and the other officials from Victoria drove up in their rented vans. They'd already been to Cranbrook Hospital and spoken to staff and any family members who were there.

    Technical people from Elk Valley Coal Mine were there as well -- called in because of their expertise. So was the coroner and the RCMP.

    Bennett said they went within three metres of the shed where the air quality was deemed perfectly normal. The site has lot of rock dumped on it. But as part of the reclamation, soil has been spread on top.

    Officials spent about 45 minutes there. But they came down to a news conference with few answers.

    Nobody knows what happened. Nobody knows how it happened. Nobody knows how long the chief mining inspector's investigation will take or the coroner's investigation or Work Safe B.C.'s investigation.

    It's not even clear when autopsy results will be released.

    The only thing that is clear is that on a hot summer-like day, four people died doing what should have been routine work.

    dbramham@png.canwest.com

    - - -

    B.C.'S FATAL MINE ACCIDENTS

    Over the past 126 years, accidents have claimed the lives of at least 426 miners in British Columbia. B.C.'s biggest mine disaster was the 1887 explosion in Nanaimo's No. 1 Mine, which killed 153 miners. Only seven miners survived.

    Mining accidents since 1879:

    2005: One miner from Fernie killed in an accident at the Elk Valley Coal Greenhills mine in Elkford.

    2002: One miner killed at Elkview Coal Corp.'s mine near Sparwood.

    1998: Two miners killed in an accident at Quinsam Coal's underground mine near Campbell River.

    1989: One miner struck by an underground train and killed at Westmin Resources Ltd.'s Myra Falls mine west of Campbell River.

    1960: One miner killed at the Paradise Mine in the Kootenays.

    1943: One miner killed March 11 at the Sullivan mine in Kimberley.

    1943: One miner killed in a mine accident at Fernie.

    1941: One miner killed in an accident at the Sullivan mine.

    1930: An underground explosion killed 45 miners at the Blakeburn coal mine near Tulameen.

    1902: Up to 130 miners killed in an explosion at the Crows Nest Pass Coal Co. Fernie mine.

    1888: An explosion killed 77 miners at the Wellington coal mine on Vancouver Island.

    1887: Up to 153 miners killed in an underground explosion at Nanaimo's No. 1 Mine.

    1879: Eleven killed in an explosion at the Dunsmuir, Diggle & Co.'s Wellington Colliery near Nanaimo.

    Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun library

    © The Vancouver Sun 2006
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    May they all rest in peace.

    While this kind of thing happening in this particular circumstance may never have happened before, there are certainly many instances of people being overcome in contaminated or oxygen deficient atmospheres. In too many of these incidents would be rescuers have been killed as well.

    I suppose in the heat of the moment we tend to forget that.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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    All I can think is that I hope that when the time comes, I will do ALL my instructors proud by remembering what and where I am going and recognize appropriate safety protocols before getting myself into a no return situation.

    I think that maybe my time at sea has some part in all this. When we reponded aboard ship as a medical team, we always listened to the space where the emergency was called to, considered hazards of confinement, and machinery, and a lot of the time we would discuss it along the way. I always did that with my engine crew enroute to an incident too. What is the call, where is, and a quick run down of potentials. Of course it almost always never turned out to be as bad as a very fertile imagination can create - which I always thought was a good thing.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

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    For the local guys who haven't heard yet, the family services for Paramedics Weitzel and Currier are being held tommorrow (Tuesday, May 23rd) in Kimberley and Cranbrook Respectively. Both families have chosen small churches for the service, so there will not be a huge presence from the FD or BCAS. These services are intended for close friends and family.

    The Public Service will be held next Monday, May 29th, at 2:00pm at the Kimberley Civic Center. This will be the best opportunity to show your support, and there is plenty of parking and assembly space.

    I'll add more details as I get them.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    Default Update

    Lack of oxygen killed 4 at B.C. mine: report
    30/10/2006 4:04:28 PM

    A lack of oxygen killed four people at a decommissioned mine in southeastern British Columbia last May, the province's chief mine inspector said Monday.


    CBC News

    One of the victims of the tragedy at the Sullivan mine arrives by ambulance at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, 30 km south of Kimberley, on May 17.

    (Canadian Press)

    As he released his report into the incident, Fred Hermann called the accident "unprecedented in the history of mining."

    Four people - two mine employees and two ambulance paramedics - died in a tiny water-sampling hut at the Sullivan mine just outside Kimberley.

    Environmental consultant Doug Erickson was the first victim.

    He had entered the hut to conduct tests and been overcome. His spouse, after not hearing from him, sounded the alert two days later.

    Teck Cominco employee Bob Newcombe was sent to the mine to check on Erickson. He went into the shed, saw Erickson's body in the water, assumed he had drowned and called 911 for help before collapsing himself.

    Paramedics Kim Weitzel and Shawn Currier, who rushed to the scene, also succumbed to the lack of oxygen when they tried to rescue the two men.

    No oxygen at bottom of shed

    Hermann has concluded that there was almost a complete lack of oxygen down at the sump pit of the shed.

    However, he noted, oxygen levels were almost normal at head height in the tiny hut. As a result, he said, the two Teck Cominco employees who died would have had no reason to suspect they were in any danger.

    And, Hermann said, he wouldn't have done anything differently himself on May 17, despite his 25 years of mining experience.

    However, he also said inadequate hazardous situation training may have contributed to the death of Currier, the second paramedic who entered the shed after his partner collapsed.

    Hermann said he suspects the oxygen-deficient atmosphere was created when an old dump nearby was covered, and that the bad air entered the bottom of the shed through a water-intake pipe.

    Safety measures reinforced

    This summer, Hermann had ordered interim safety precautions at other decommissioned mine sites in B.C. where water-testing sheds are downstream from mine waste.

    They include testing the air quality inside the shed before anyone enters, and adding ventilation systems.

    On Monday, he recommended those directives remain in place and that further safety measures be implemented.

    Hermann said the company was negligent in not having proper logging of who was at the old mine site, but said that negligence had nothing to do with the tragedy.

    Bill Bennett, B.C.'s minister of state for mines, acknowledged that some family members of the victims are upset that Hermann has ruled the company's violation did not contribute to the accident, which means the company will not be fined.

    He said the families think the company should be penalized in some way.

    The company says it's following all of the inspector's recommendations, to ensure a tragedy of this kind isn't repeated.
    September 11th - Never Forget

    I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

    Sheri
    IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
    Honorary Flatlander

    RAY WAS HERE FIRST

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