Emergency service members to sue Arkema following explosions at Texas plant
08 September 2017
Seven first responders injured after explosions at the troubled Arkema chemical plant in Crosby are now suing the company for at least $1 million in damages. On September 7, a week after the first blast rocked the Texas town, Houston lawyers launched a legal battle in a Harris County court, accusing Arkema of gross negligence.
Despite past flooding events and advance notice of the impending destruction of Hurricane Harvey, Arkema "ignored the foreseeable consequences of failing to prepare," the suit claims, leaving trailers of volatile chemicals susceptible to explosion after flooding knocked out the electricity and ability to cool the heat-sensitive compounds.
Officials announced it would ignite six remaining trailers at the Arkema plant in Crosby on September 3. The chemical plant had been badly damaged by floods from Hurricane Harvey and has already seen several explosions.
The first of nine trailers of organic peroxides exploded early on the morning of August 31, landing a number of first responders in the hospital following exposure to fumes from the chemicals, which ignited and left a 40-foot plume of black smoke.
"Although the explosions had occurred, no one from Arkema alerted the first responders who were manning the perimeter of the arbitrary mandatory evacuation area," the lawyers said in a press release. "Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosions, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road."
Emergency medical personnel arrived on scene, and were overcome by fumes before even exiting their vehicles, the lawyers allege.
"The scene was nothing less than chaos," the lawsuit claims. "Police officers were doubled over vomiting, unable to breathe."
The seven first responders at the center of the new legal action were all on scene for "that chaos and those toxic fumes," according to legal papers. Fifteen Harris County deputies and eight EMS personnel, including Crosby's EMS chief, were hospitalised due to exposure to the fumes.
The legal claim specifically targets Arkema officials Richard Rowe and Richard Rennard for holding press conferences at which they "repeatedly denied that the chemicals were toxic or harmful in any manner," the lawyers write. "Plaintiffs relied upon these representations and suffered serious bodily injury as a result."
Twenty homeowners also asked to be added to the suit, according to the law firms.