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Chris Everett-US Army Archive

Court Revives Suit Over Electrocuted Guardsman

Posted March 1, 2012 By Ms Sparky

Larraine Mcgee holding a photo of her son SSG Chris Everett during a hearing about Iraq electrocutions

Cameron Langford – (Courthouse News) – March 1, 2012 – A defense contractor may be liable under Iraqi law for the electrocution death of a National Guardsman, the 5th Circuit ruled.
     
Sgt. Christopher Everett of the Texas Army National Guard was electrocuted at Camp Taqaddum in Iraq on Sept. 7, 2005, while using a power washer to clean a Humvee.
     
The Army attributed the 23-year-old’s fatal accident to an improperly grounded wire on the generator that supplied the power washer with electricity. It relayed these conclusions to Everett’s parents, Larraine McGee and Patrick Everett, in December.
     
Everett’s parents filed suit in Texas state court against contractors Arkel International, KBR Technical Services and Kellogg, Brown & Root Services in August 2008. They claimed to have only learned four months earlier about the alleged involvement of Arkel, a Baton Rouge-based company that maintained the generator at Everett’s base.
     
By September 2008, the couple filed identical claims in Louisiana state court.
     
Both cases were removed to federal courts, but the Louisiana case was stayed pending a ruling in the Texas proceedings.
     
Read the remainder of this entry »

By Lisa M. Novak, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, October 4, 2009

It was near 100 degrees on May 8, 2004, when Spc. Chase Whitham and a few other soldiers decided to cool off in the swimming pool at Forward Operating Base Patriot in Mosul, Iraq.

A junior officer had recently renovated the pool, but a battalion commander had placed the pool off-limits until final precautions could be made.

No signs were posted, so Whitham and the others jumped in. The 21-year-old from Oregon was electrocuted when he touched a metal pipe that was circulating the pool water. It was later determined that the water pump had shorted and was not properly grounded.

Whitham was one of the first Americans to be killed by electrical problems at U.S. bases in Iraq.

In all, 19 Americans — 16 servicemembers, two contractors and a State Department employee — have been electrocuted since 2003.

But it was the death of Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, who was electrocuted while showering in 2008, that led the Department of Defense Inspector General to look at the issue. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. — Maseth was from Pittsburgh — pushed for the investigation.

Maseth, a 24-year-old Green Beret assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq, died while showering in a facility that had an improperly grounded water pump. The IG, in a report released in July, found that the contractor tasked with performing facility maintenance, along with military commanders, failed to ensure the safety of servicemen and women.

In some cases, deaths could have been prevented had minimum safety requirements been met, investigators stated in the report.

That Maseth’s death came almost four years after Whitham died in the pool, is upsetting to Whitham’s mother, Laurie.

“Chase’s death would’ve sent a clear message to inspect every single pump they ever installed over there,” Laurie Whitham said by telephone recently from her home in Harrisburg, Ore. “Chase was involved with the war early on. I’m appalled that [four years later] a guy could be electrocuted in the shower. I know there’s been other incidents where there have been injuries, so who knows how many cases there are?”

Nothing left to investigate

In the summary of its report, the IG concluded that evidence should have led to additional investigative work to resolve accountability issues, and recommended that the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command reopen four of the cases, including Maseth’s.

But the new investigations have been hampered by lost evidence, lost leads and the U.S. pullback from some bases in Iraq. Only one has been completed.

With years having passed since the deaths, investigators have struggled finding witnesses and collecting documents, Chris Grey, a Criminal Investigation Command spokesman, said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. CID officials refused to be interviewed for the story.

Last year, an IG team visited the areas where eight of the electrocutions happened and found little, if anything, left to investigate. They did learn:

  • The swimming pool where Whitham died is part of a base that has since been returned to Iraq.
  • The maintenance area where Sgt. Christopher Everett, 23, died while using a power washer at a base outside Ramadi in May 2005 is now a parking lot.
  • The shower stall where Spc. Marcus Nolasco, 34, died couldn’t be located and “nothing involved in the incident remained for examination.”

In the Nolasco case, electrical work done at Forward Operating Base Summerall in Beiji two weeks before his death was performed by a local contractor who didn’t have to “meet any minimum or standard electrical code or requirement,” according to the IG report. The day after the job was completed, the facility was closed because of electrical shocks and plumbing problems. But signs were not posted, and troops who still had a key to enter the facility were not informed of the closing, according to the report.

In the Whitham case, the IG determined that in the initial investigation, “minimum investigative steps” were taken to determine the cause of death, the number and scope of interviews were deemed minimal and physical evidence wasn’t collected.

The report also suggested the Army should have conducted a negligent homicide investigation in the Whitham case since the command failed to ensure electrical safety requirements were in place when the work was done, and because the command didn’t post signs or prevent anyone from using the pool once it was placed off limits.

The IG report further found that electrical shocks were so commonplace that many incidents went unreported and were considered to be just part of duty in Iraq. The Defense Contract Management Agency — which ensures contractors’ work is done properly — found more than 230 instances of reported shocks in a database of facilities maintained by the military contracting company KBR in Iraq between 2006 and 2008. The work of KBR was cited in two cases looked at by the IG.

KBR officials would not comment specifically on the report, but did give a general response.

“KBR’s unwavering commitment to the safety and security of all employees, the troops and those we serve remains,” said Heather Browne, KBR spokeswoman.

Two lawsuits were filed against the Houston-based contractor.

In the case of Everett, a judge dismissed KBR from a wrongful death lawsuit, although the company still faces the same claim in the death of Maseth.

KBR has filed a motion for a judge to dismiss the suit, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

KBR’s Browne told USA Today in July, that while Maseth’s death was tragic, the company maintains it is not responsible. She said KBR informed the military of problems within the facility months before Maseth’s death.

“Prior to that incident, the military never directed KBR to repair, upgrade or improve the grounding system in the building in which Maseth resided, nor was KBR directed to perform any preventative maintenance at this facility,” said Browne, quoted in USA Today.

No changes necessary

Despite the IG’s findings of inadequate or nonexistent safety measures on the part of military commanders and dangerously shoddy construction practices by U.S. or Iraqi contractors, the Army determined that no one should be held criminally liable.

Many contractors and government employees “breached their respective duties of care,” according to a statement the Army released in August, yet “none of those breaches in and of themselves were the proximate cause of his death.”

Furthermore, although CID’s investigative practices were called into question, the Army has not initiated any changes to how it conducts investigations, according to Grey, but agents were “reminded of the need to apply all available investigative techniques and processes.”

Without giving any time frame for completion, Grey wrote that the remaining investigations are almost finished. (click HERE for original article)

KBR’s most recent press release is BS

Posted July 29, 2009 By Ms Sparky

KBR put out this press release yesterday and it is just plain KBR crap! It disturbs me how the news media will just take a press release at face value from a company like KBR without even asking the other party involved for a statement. You can read the truth about what’s going on in the news article below.

Below is KBR’s BS press release

Houston, Texas – July 28, 2009 – KBR (NYSE:KBR) announced today it has been dismissed from two lawsuits arising from an electrocution incident that resulted in the death of Sergeant Chris Everett. The dismissal orders were issued by the United States District Courts in the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Louisiana.

“The dismissal orders affirm that despite repeated criticism and statements made by several public officials on Capitol Hill and related media reports, KBR had no involvement in the factors that led to the tragic death of Sergeant Everett,” said Andrew D. Farley, KBR Senior Vice President and General Counsel.

KBR is a global engineering, construction and services company supporting the energy, hydrocarbon, government services and civil infrastructure sectors. The company offers a wide range of services through its Downstream, Government and Infrastructure, Services, Technology, Upstream and Ventures business segments. For more information, visit www.kbr.com.

CONTACT:
KBR, Houston
Director, Communications
Heather Browne, 713-753-3775
heather.browne@kbr.com
or
Director, Investor Relations
Rob Kukla, Jr., 713-753-5082
investors@kbr.com

Below is the truth about what really happened.

Electrocuted soldier’s mom drops lawsuit against KBR

By Robin Acton
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The mother of a Texas soldier electrocuted in Iraq in 2005 said it was a difficult decision to drop wrongful death lawsuits filed in two states against defense contractor KBR Inc.

Larraine McGee, mother of Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Everett, said Tuesday she felt she had no choice when she agreed to KBR’s request to dismiss federal complaints filed against the company in Texas and Louisiana. She said she feared “losing the whole case,” which also names as a defendant Arkel International LLC, a defense contractor based in Baton Rouge.

“KBR had us tied up in appeals, and Arkel didn’t appeal anything,” said McGee, of Huntsville, Texas. “I was afraid of losing it all. I felt I had to do this so the case against Arkel could continue.”

Houston-based KBR yesterday issued a statement indicating that its removal from the cases absolves the company of responsibility in the death of Everett, 23, who was killed while power-washing sand from a Humvee in a motor pool on Sept. 7, 2005.

“The dismissal orders affirm that, despite repeated criticism and statements made by several public officials on Capitol Hill and related media reports, KBR had no involvement in the factors that led to the tragic death of Sergeant Everett,” said Andrew D. Farley, KBR senior vice president and general counsel.

The Army’s criminal investigation into Everett’s death is ongoing, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Defense inspector general. (click HERE for the original article)

This statement by Farley is BS and there should be some sort of punishment the DoD can dish out for this.

This dismissal does not affirm that KBR was not responsible for Chris’s death. All it affirms is overwhelming legal wrangling on KBR’s part. But to claim that this dismissal proves they had nothing to do with Chris’s death is just inaccurate. The dismissal had nothing to do at all with evidence of the case. The Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) isn’t even finished with their investigation.

The suit will still go forward with KBR’s former co-defendant Arkel International from Louisiana.

I hope the shareholders are paying attention here.

I have always referred to Heather Browne’s office as the “Office of Bogus Bull Shit”. Either Brown and Farley share an office or KBR has two “Office’s of Bogus Bull Shit”! Who would’ve thought!

Ms Sparky

DOD IG Report on 17 Electrocution Deaths

Posted July 27, 2009 By Ms Sparky

Here is the DoD Inspector General Report Entitled “Review of Electrocution Deaths in Iraq:  Part II – Seventeen Incidents Apart from  Staff Sergeant Ryan D. Maseth, U.S. Army” dated July 24, 2009

Report No. IPO2009E001 .pdf 1.7 MB

You can also get it from the DoD IG website.

I have not had time to read this report, but here is a VERY brief summary based on media reports.

Nine of 18 electrocution deaths reported in Iraq were caused by “improper grounding or faulty equipment,” including the January 2008 death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, the Defense Department’s inspector-general found.

Investigations remain open in five of those cases, according to a summary of the report obtained by the AP.

As soon as I get more I will let you know.

Ms Sparky

Why Do I Care?

Posted July 23, 2009 By Ms Sparky

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Larraine McGee kneels next to her son SSG Christopher Everett’s grave.

On a recent trip to Texas I visited a dear friend of mine, Larraine McGee. I met Larraine in Washington DC in July 2008 when we testified before the same Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing on “Contractor Misconduct and the Electrocution Deaths of American Soldiers in Iraq”. Larraine’s son Chris was electrocuted and died at Camp Taqqadum (TQ) on September 7, 2005 while pressure washing his Humvee. Larraine has since filed a wrongful death suit against KBR and Arkel International. Since the Hearing Larraine and I have stayed in touch and I have committed to help her in anyway I can.  (click HERE for Larraine’s Testimony and HERE for all the testimonies of this and other Senate DPC Hearings)

In true Larraine style we were greeted with a genuine smile and a great big hug. She is a gracious host and treated my grandson to some fishing, he caught his first fish ever and showed us the tourists sites of Huntsville. The most important site she wanted us to see was her son Chris’ grave. It was a not so subtle reminder of who we are fighting for. Chris is dead because of complacency, inattention to detail, poor management and poor oversight. If all electrical installations and maintenance had been done correctly Chris would not have died and Larraine would not have to visit him in the Cemetery.

I get a lot of criticism for nit picking KBR and other contractors for the little things that don’t seem to make much difference in the big scheme of things. It’s the little things that lead to the big things. If you don’t deal with the little things they can become big things very quickly. It was a relatively little thing (sloppy work) that evidently led to Chris’ death. The little things matter in a very big way. Just ask Larraine.

Why do I care? There’s one big reason…….this future Marine (year 2021)

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This is my grandson and he is already bound and determined to be a Marine. He was not too keen on following us into the Cemetery but then again he was not too keen on being left in the car either. He has heard me talk about Chris and other soldiers who have died in the war. But seeing the headstone seem to make it very real for him.

I refuse to sit back and “hope” that in the year 2021 some DoD Contractor doesn’t screw up and kill my grandson. I refuse to sit back and “hope” that the DoD finally has their house in order and cares about my grandson as much as I do. I just refuse to sit back and ‘hope” for change.

KBR is always spouting  “KBR’s commitment to employee safety and the safety of those the company serves is unwavering”. If KBR and the DoD want to know what true “unwavering commitment” is they just need to ask Larraine McGee or any another mother who is fighting for the truth about the death of their child.

Ms Sparky