Chinese Company Ignores Lawsuit In 2018 Cresson Chemical Plant Explosion

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By NewsRadio 1080 KRLD

A settlement has been reached with the importer and with the distributor of a dangerous chemical behind the March 2018 explosion at the TriChem chemical company.  An attorney involved in the case says terms have not been disclosed.

The cause of the fatal, chain reaction explosion that killed one and injured two in Hood County and the cause is still officially undetermined. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in court documents singled out a chemical. Sodium Chlorite 80%, manufactured by the Chinese company Dongying Shengya Chemical Co. LTD is cited in both a civil lawsuit and by the OSHA in the March 15, 2018 explosion and fire at the Tri-Chem Special Chemical company in Cresson. 

Dongying Shengya is located in Dongying City, Shandong Province, People's Republic of China.

The explosion killed Dylan Mitchell, 27, of Weatherford and severely burned Jason William Speegle.  Both worked for Tri-Chem. 

While the American-based importer and distributor took part in the suit, Dongying Shengya never responded to the suit nor did the company take part in any settlement talks. Legal experts say there is little that can be done.

"When you are putting together the contractual provisions for your dealings with a foreign company, whether it be China or anywhere else for that matter, you need to be sure that there are provisions that deal with liability and loss in the event something goes wrong." said Ed Klein, an attorney and legal analyst for KRLD news.

The lawsuit filed in Dallas County Court lays blame on sodium chlorite 80%.  It's a chemical so volatile, the suit says, that a few steps can cause disaster.

"We believe that when it deposits on the floor of a handling plant, that someone even walking through it can cause ignition." said John Jose, a lawyer who represents the Mitchells.

A report by OSHA seems to back that claim.  Among the citations issued in the disaster is one for a general hazard.  "On or about March 15, 2018, and at times prior thereto, in the Liquid Chemical Building Room, employees transfer 110 pound drums of sodium chlorite, into a super sack while working near ignition sources, combustibles, organic solvents, organic materials, oils and acids." the document said.

The lawsuit paints a chilling picture of how the fire started.  "Upon information and belief, DYLAN WAYNE MITCHELL's foot inadvertently made contact with a lid from a sodium chlorite container causing it to move a short distance across the floor in contact with the sodium chlorite deposits on the floor." the lawsuit said.   "This caused a bright orange sparking along the path of travel of the lid which had the appearance of a lit fuse or sparkler along the path. Suddenly flames appeared around MITCHELL's legs which caught his clothes and hair a afire."

That, the suit claims, what the start of the fatal chain reaction.   "The flames made contact with additional sodium chlorite in a large open supersack nearby resulting in a massive explosion and fire. As a result of the explosion and fire, DYLAN WAYNE MITCHELL suffered burn injuries which resulted in his death."

"I don't think that the warnings on the products were sufficient to apprise anybody of these risks." said Jose.

OSHA found five serious worker safety violations and deleted a sixth.  Fines totaled $12,566.