Valero Refinery Explosion Kills One and Injures Others

On March 6 there was an explosion at a Valero oil refinery in Memphis, Tennessee in which a subcontractor was killed and two others were severely burned. A multimillion dollar wrongful death and injury lawsuit was filed against Valero as a result.The lawsuit alleges severe and gross negligence for failing to ensure that there were no hazardous or flammable gases in the flare line. Also, they claim that Valero did not provide timely firefighting assistance or have automatic firefighting equipment in place.
It is also claimed that this is the third fire at this Memphis refinery in less than two years.

A Houston personal injury attorney stated, “This is the worst I’ve ever seen. This is considered ‘hot work.’ Valero signs off that it is safe to work. They let these men go in an area where hydrocarbons were still flowing. They really just dropped the ball on many, many kinds of fronts.”

The lawsuit was filed by Richard Cuevas, a foreman of the five-man work crew who was on the platform when the explosion occurred. He also filed suit on behalf of his two brothers, Nicolas Cuevas who died in the explosion, and Daniel Reyes Cuevas, who remained in the hospital with burns over seventy percent of his body. He has recently regained consciousness and communicates by blinking his eyes to yes and no questions.

On March 6, the workers were told to block off a flare line that was on a two-story platform, but before the men were sent to the flare line, Valero personnel was supposed to ensure that it was free of flammable gases and that fire protection and fighting gear were immediately available. Flares are torch-like towers topped by fire that act as safety devices where pressurized gases can be routed and burned when necessary.

The suit alleged that, “The fire was of such magnitude that it knocked Richard Cuevas and Luis Santos backwards from where they were working approximately 50 feet away. The force of the blast blew Nicolas Oscar Cuevas off of the flare platform. When he hit the ground, he was still on fire. Richard Cuevas and Luis Santos spent more than five minutes in an effort to extinguish the flames, without assistance. It took more than 10 minutes before any of those burned received assistance from trained personnel.”

Pulgini & Norton, LLP attorneys have handled workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years in and around Boston and its surrounding areas. If you or a family member has been injured at work and would like to seek legal assistance, please contact us at (781) 843-2200 or (888) 344-2046 or email us.

Cited Sources:

Workers file suit over Memphis refinery explosion,, April 16, 2012

Millions at stake in Valero suit: Subcontractor died, 2 injured in March explosion at plant, The Commercial Appeal, April 16, 2012

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