LA PORTE, TX (11/15/2014) — Four workers (brothers Robert “Bobby” Tisnado and Gilbert “Gibby” Tisnado, Crystle Rae Wise, and Wade Baker) have been killed following a chemical leak at a DuPont plant near La Porte, Texas.
Chemical leaks and spills often result in fatalities or at least serious injuries. These accidents frequently take place at large chemical plants, and the public doesn’t always hear all the details of the incidents as the companies involved usually aren’t too eager to publicize them.
A recent chemical leak at DuPont’s LaPorte, Texas, pesticide plant resulted in the deaths of four workers. An additional worker was also injured. The deaths resulted from a poisonous gas leak after (according to the Houston Chronicle) the workers were trapped inside for an hour before anyone called 911. When 911 was finally called by the shift supervisor at DuPont, the caller allegedly provided no details to dispatchers concerning the existence of either methyl isocyanate or methyl mercaptan, both ingredients of insecticides and fungicides (in addition to being the components that cause the odor in natural gas). The supervisor also allegedly told the dispatcher that the gases would not escape from the premises.
This DuPont chemical plant has as much as 250 tons of extremely flammable methyl mercaptan on site, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle. However, at the time of this chemical leak there was also some methyl isocyanate in the plant. This is the exact same chemical that killed more than 2,200 people in 1984 when it escaped from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. That event has been ranked as the world’s worst industrial accident.
The LaPorte plant is located on 600 acres along the Houston Ship Channel and has been in operation since 1956. There is an ongoing investigation into the accident by federal officials, but according to emergency management officials, there was inadequate and slow response to the leak, especially in light of the urgency of the disaster. The site of the accident had been suffering recently with repetitive maintenance problems, and the employees did not appear to have quick access to breathing equipment that would have increased their chances of survival during this incident. It was also reported that no one from DuPont contacted the Channel Industries Mutual Aide (CIMA). CIMA is a special nonprofit emergency industrial response network that was designed specifically to handle hazardous material disasters that have the potential to create fatalities.
DuPont initially estimated that 100 pounds of methyl mercaptan had escaped during this incident, but later revised that number to 23,000 pounds. According to officials, there was a valve failure on a container of methyl mercapan. The four wrongful deaths were the result of the inhalation of excess gas.