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2 injured workers file $10 million lawsuit against Exxon Mobil after Baytown refinery explosion

ExxonMobil's Baytown refinery
Dave Fehling
Houston Public Media
A fire erupted Thursday at Exxon Mobil's Baytown refinery, seen in this file photo.

Two contract workers who were severely injured in an explosion at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery last week have filed a $10 million lawsuit against the oil and gas company.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs Dylan Purcell and Nicholas Moore were tasked with sealing a leaking pipe that contained naphthalene, a flammable gas, with two other individuals who worked for Team Industrial Services.

As the four contractors worked, a metal piece became stuck on a bolt, prompting one of the Team Industrial workers to use their wrench “as a hammer” to loosen the piece, the lawsuit reads.

The other Team Industrial worker, who was tasked with ensuring that steam was sprayed on the area to prevent sparks, failed to do so, according to the lawsuit. The wrench created a spark, causing the flammable gas to ignite, which knocked all four workers down, and engulfed them in flames, according to court documents.

The lawsuit says Purcell and Moore were forced to jump down more than 20 feet to avoid further injury. Both men suffered head injuries, major orthopedic injury to their spines, and were burned all over their bodies, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, Moore suffered a broken leg due to the fall.

All four men were transported to the Texas Medical Center after the explosion. The resulting fire took emergency crews several hours to extinguish.

The Harris County Fire Marshall's office is investigating the incident.

The lawsuit names Team Industrial Services and Exxon Mobil as defendants, and alleges negligence and gross negligence. According to the lawsuit, the permit for the work had been issued by ExxonMobil without taking appropriate precautions while also failing to provide proper safety equipment.

Purcell and Moore are seeking $10 million in damages.

“Workers in this country are routinely exposed to extreme danger while management and shareholders reap the profits,” their lawyer, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, said in an email. “Profits over the safety of the workers is a short-term strategy that ultimately costs companies like Exxon Mobil much more in the long run.”

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Lucio Vasquez