A Kansas grain company faces a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of four men who were among six killed when a grain silo exploded in October 2011.
The explosion at the Bartlett Grain Co. facility in Atchison, KS, killed six men ages 20 to 43.
Two of the men killed were inspectors who were not employees of Bartlett. Their families have also obtained attorneys, but their cases will be handled separately.
Bartlett’s president, Bob Knief, is just one of several of the grain company’s employees named in the lawsuit.
The allegations in the lawsuit are similar to citations issued by OSHA in April against Bartlett. OSHA issued five willful and eight serious violations for a total of $406,000 in fines. The company is contesting the fines.
The lawsuit accuses Bartlett of willfully ignoring safety rules before the explosion.
In the wrongful death lawsuit, the families of the four victims allege:
- workers weren’t properly trained to get rid of the combustible dust that led to the explosion, and
- dust cleaning practices and electrical connections at the plant were unsafe and inadequate.
The explosion also seriously injured two other employees. It blew a two- to three-story structure called a head house off the top of a 125-foot grain elevator. Residents reported feeling and hearing the explosion four miles away. People in Missouri saw the fireball.
While there has been no criminal prosecution of the company or its executives, an OSHA spokesman said in April when there are fatalities along with willful violations, the agency’s solicitor may consider forwarding the case to the Justice Department for further action.
Family opposes memorial
Just weeks ago, Bartlett announced plans to create a memorial in Atchison for the six men who died in the blast. The plan has drawn strong criticism from one victim’s family.
“It would be our recommendation that Bartlett invest in an extensive safety program designed to prevent another tragedy,” wrote Zoe and Kevin Bock, the mother and stepfather of Chad Roberts, 20, the youngest worker to die in the explosion.
Do you think it would be better for Bartlett to dedicate additional spending in its safety program to the memories of the workers who died rather than to build a memorial? Let us know what you think in the comments below.