Second lawsuit filed over Mobile River barge explosions
MOBILE, Alabama – A second lawsuit has been filed against companies involved in a barge explosion on the Mobile River last month.
Mobile County Conservator J. Gregory Carwie, appointed to manage the affairs of injured worker George Erickson, filed the suit last week in Mobile County Circuit Court against four companies. It seeks unspecified damages.
The suit comes on the heels of one by another injured worker, Casey Tyson, who was working on the electronics system of a tugboat that was near the two barges. After treatment at the University of South Alabama, he was transferred to a burn center in Dallas closer to his home.
Doctors at USA Medical Center have upgraded the conditions of Erickson and the third victim, Justin Benoit, to serious.
Representatives from the companies named in the lawsuits have either declined to comment or failed to return phone calls.
According to the most recent civil complaint, Erickson has suffered from second- and third-degree burns over more than 50 percent of his body and “remains under constant sedation and is presently unable to manage his affairs due to the catastrophic nature of his injuries.”
As a result, the Mobile County Probate Court appointed Carwie to make decisions regarding Erickson’s estate. The plaintiff’s attorney, Desi Tobias, said it was the most expedient way to get the suit filed quickly, which he said could preserve certain claims had Erickson died.
“It was just a legal matter,” he said. “We felt it was best to do it that way.”
The conservator is charged with making financial decisions on behalf of orphans or incapacitated people who cannot manage their own affairs. For much of the time since the explosions on April 24, Erickson has been unconscious, Tobias said.
“He has since regained consciousness, just in the last day or two,” he said. “Hopefully, he will continue to improve.”
Tobias said his client was working for Oil Recovery Co. of Alabama, which was hired to clean two oil barges at its facility off of Dunlap Drive. Benoit was working of AEP River Operations, a Chesterfield, Missouri, company that was operating the tugboat between the two barges.
Tyson filed a lawsuit last week against several of the companies named in Carwie’s complaint.
In addition to AEP, the suit names D&S Marine Service, a Houma, Louisiana, company that was responsible for towing the barges; Kirby Inland Marine, a Houston company that owned the barges; and OCRA Inc., which owns the land that Oil Recovery Co. leases for its operations.
Tobias said he was not prepared to lay out a theory of what sparked the multiple explosions.
“There’s a tremendous amount of investigation going on,” he said.
Tobias said the pace of the civil case will be determined, somewhat, by the probes underway by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“I think everyone will want to see what the official investigations come up with,” he said.
Article Source: AL.com