I do not understand why the Department of Defense is not getting it!!! Read on….
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The tragedy of preventable death
August 4, 2008
The death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth in Iraq could have been prevented if the Army and a defense contractor had done their jobs.
Maseth, who grew up outside Pittsburgh, was electrocuted Jan. 2 while taking a shower in his quarters near Baghdad. A water pump that hadn’t been grounded properly sent electrical current through the pipes. A fellow soldier who discovered his body also was badly shocked.
The Army at first told Maseth’s grieving mother that her son had taken a small appliance into the shower.
That was false.
A congressional investigation has revealed that another soldier who had lived in the same quarters complained to the Army earlier about getting shocked in the shower. He said the current was so strong that he had to use a wooden stick to turn off the water.
The Army’s largest contractor, KBR, formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton, installed a new pump, according to four work orders discovered by House investigators. But a few months later, Maseth was dead.
Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) has been pushing the Pentagon hard for answers, with good reason. Maseth isn’t the only soldier electrocuted in Iraq. Since 2003, as many as 16 soldiers and contractors have died from electrocution. Electrical malfunctions also have resulted in nearly 300 fires, causing more injuries.
“Sixteen deaths do not make for isolated incidents or random occurrences; they constitute a pattern and are a genuine danger to our men and women serving in Iraq,” Casey testified at a hearing last week.
A Pentagon spokesman said not all of these deaths resulted from faulty wiring; eight of the victims accidentally came into contact with low-hanging electrical lines while on patrol away from their bases.
Still, the Pentagon and KBR have not satisfactorily explained why these deaths occurred, or how they intend to prevent more fatal accidents. KBR, which has collected more than $24 billion in war contracts since the invasion of Iraq began in 2003, points the blame at the Army. That’s a disturbing lack of accountability by a contractor that continues to receive billions from U.S. taxpayers in new wartime contracts.
The Defense Department is investigating, but it has also placed KBR in charge of a new round of safety inspections. That’s a bad idea, since the contractor was responsible for ensuring the safety of the facilities in the first place.
Former KBR electricians have testified about the lack of qualified workers to perform these jobs in Iraq, lack of tools and lack of adequate supervision. Defense Secretary Robert Gates should order that inspections be performed by certified U.S. government personnel.
Accidental deaths not related to combat are an unfortunate part of every war. But the Defense Department needs to reassure soldiers and their families that it is doing everything possible to prevent routine events from having tragic consequences.