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Family of Worker Killed in Fire Sues Texas City Marathon

23 May, 2023 Liz Carey

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Texas City, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – The family of a worker killed in a refinery fire has filed suit, just days after the man’s death.

Scott Higgins died Monday, May 15 when a fire broke out at the Marathon Petroleum refinery plant in Texas City. Around 9:30 a.m., the company said, a fire broke out at the plant. Higgins, 55, had worked for the refinery for nearly 20 years, his family said, and had no plans to retire any time soon. However, his family said he had expressed some concerns about safety at the plant.

According to an initial report from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, it was a splitter on Ultraformer Unit #3 that developed a leak and caught on fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, officials said.

Officials said Higgins died from burns and smoke inhalation, and ruled his death accidental.

"We are deeply saddened to report that a Marathon employee has passed away as a result of the fire today at Marathon Petroleum's Galveston Bay refinery," the company said in a statement on Monday. "We extend our deepest sympathies to our employee's family, friends and co-workers, and our thoughts are with them as we all mourn his passing. The safety of our workers and the community is our top priority, and a full investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the incident."

The fire continued to burn until Thursday. Within hours of Texas City police saying the fire was under control and contained, the family filed their suit.

The family’s attorney Tony Buzbee, said Higgins burned to death. Higgins’ family said it has not been able to get answers from the company about what happened to Higgins.

Buzbee said the family will be suing Marathon and other entities for gross negligence.

"Marathon put its profits over worker safety," he said.

Higgins’ daughters said the company has taken their time with their father.

"We understood that his time was the most valuable thing that he had to give, and he gave it to the people that mattered the most to him," one of his daughters told ABC13. "Marathon has taken away my dad's ability to give us that time"

The suit claims that Marathon and others were negligent in failing to “properly and adequately manage, inspect, maintain and repair” the leaking unit and the surrounding machinery. The lawsuit seeks inspection records, and the names of employees who have performed maintenance on the purportedly leaking unit, in an effort to determine what happened at the plant prior to the fire and whether the plant was properly maintaining the facility.

It is second fatality at the refinery this year. In late February, a contract worker died after he suffered injuries from an electrical shock. The company said the worker was transported to a medical facility, where he later died of his injuries.

"Our top priority is safety at our facilities, and an investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the accident," Marathon said in a statement at the time. "We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased individual and are providing support to other members of our team during this difficult time."

Two other contract workers were killed in the May 15 blaze. Eduardo Olivo, and a third worker who has not been identified, were working for Mistras Group, Inc., a refinery support company, when the fire broke out. Olivo’s attorney, Muhammad Aziz, said Olivo received second- and third-degree burns.

Higgins, Olivo and the other worker were performing preventative maintenance on the Ultraformer-3, officials said. The Ultraformer converts naphtha to reformate, an octane booster for gasoline. The unit is the larger of two Ultraformers at the refinery. Officials said the repairs were intended to maintain operations in the unit until a scheduled overhaul in January.

Olivo was burned and “intends to bring negligence, premises liability and/or gross negligence,” Aziz said in court filings.

Officials said OSHA and other state and federal agencies were investigating the fire.

Nearly two decades ago, the plant was the site of another fire. On March 23, 2005, when the plant was owned by BP Plc, the plant suffered an explosion in a refinery unit caused by “the startup of an "isomerization unit" (which increases the octane rating of gasoline),” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In that accident, 15 contract workers were killed and another 180 people were injured.

According to a report by the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Identification Board (CSB) a lack of corporate management understanding and commitment to safety led to that explosion.

Family of worker killed in fire files suit against Texas City Marathon
By Liz Carey

Texas City, Texas (WorkersCompensation.com) – The family of a worker killed in a refinery fire has filed suit, just days after the man’s death.

Scott Higgins died Monday, May 15 when a fire broke out at the Marathon Petroleum refinery plant in Texas City. Around 9:30 a.m., the company said, a fire broke out at the plant. Higgins, 55, had worked for the refinery for nearly 20 years, his family said, and had no plans to retire any time soon. However, his family said he had expressed some concerns about safety at the plant.

According to an initial report from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, it was a splitter on Ultraformer Unit #3 that developed a leak and caught on fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, officials said.

Officials said Higgins died from burns and smoke inhalation, and ruled his death accidental.

"We are deeply saddened to report that a Marathon employee has passed away as a result of the fire today at Marathon Petroleum's Galveston Bay refinery," the company said in a statement on Monday. "We extend our deepest sympathies to our employee's family, friends and co-workers, and our thoughts are with them as we all mourn his passing. The safety of our workers and the community is our top priority, and a full investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the incident."

The fire continued to burn until Thursday. Within hours of Texas City police saying the fire was under control and contained, the family filed their suit.

The family’s attorney Tony Buzbee, said Higgins burned to death. Higgins’ family said it has not been able to get answers from the company about what happened to Higgins.

Buzbee said the family will be suing Marathon and other entities for gross negligence.

"Marathon put its profits over worker safety," he said.

Higgins’ daughters said the company has taken their time with their father.

"We understood that his time was the most valuable thing that he had to give, and he gave it to the people that mattered the most to him," one of his daughters told ABC13. "Marathon has taken away my dad's ability to give us that time"

The suit claims that Marathon and others were negligent in failing to “properly and adequately manage, inspect, maintain and repair” the leaking unit and the surrounding machinery. The lawsuit seeks inspection records, and the names of employees who have performed maintenance on the purportedly leaking unit, in an effort to determine what happened at the plant prior to the fire and whether the plant was properly maintaining the facility.

It is second fatality at the refinery this year. In late February, a contract worker died after he suffered injuries from an electrical shock. The company said the worker was transported to a medical facility, where he later died of his injuries.

"Our top priority is safety at our facilities, and an investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the accident," Marathon said in a statement at the time. "We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased individual and are providing support to other members of our team during this difficult time."

Two other contract workers were killed in the May 15 blaze. Eduardo Olivo, and a third worker who has not been identified, were working for Mistras Group, Inc., a refinery support company, when the fire broke out. Olivo’s attorney, Muhammad Aziz, said Olivo received second- and third-degree burns.

Higgins, Olivo and the other worker were performing preventative maintenance on the Ultraformer-3, officials said. The Ultraformer converts naphtha to reformate, an octane booster for gasoline. The unit is the larger of two Ultraformers at the refinery. Officials said the repairs were intended to maintain operations in the unit until a scheduled overhaul in January.

Olivo was burned and “intends to bring negligence, premises liability and/or gross negligence,” Aziz said in court filings.

Officials said OSHA and other state and federal agencies were investigating the fire.

Nearly two decades ago, the plant was the site of another fire. On March 23, 2005, when the plant was owned by BP Plc, the plant suffered an explosion in a refinery unit caused by “the startup of an "isomerization unit" (which increases the octane rating of gasoline),” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In that accident, 15 contract workers were killed and another 180 people were injured.

According to a report by the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Identification Board (CSB) a lack of corporate management understanding and commitment to safety led to that explosion.


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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