GIs die in needless accidents - KBR says "not their job"

Mr Happy

LE
Moderator
#1
Sod that for a game of soldiers...

House Wants Details on Electrocutions in Iraq
By Rick Maze
Army Times

Wednesday 19 March 2008

A House committee is investigating accidental electrocutions of U.S. troops in Iraq to determine if inadequate oversight of government contracts played a role in the deaths.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the Pentagon on Wednesday to provide details on 12 deaths in Iraq since 2003 that are believed to have been caused by electrocution.

In particular, the committee is interested in maintenance contracts for troops' living areas to see if contractors have been slow to make repairs when electrical problems have been reported.

Once the information is in hand, the committee will decide how to proceed, aides said. Waxman's committee does not have direct oversight of the military, but it does have power over federal contracting, and is considering revising some rules after finding a variety of problems with other Iraq-related contracts.

The committee investigation was prompted by the Jan. 2 accidental death of 24-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who suffered cardiac arrest after being electrocuted while taking a shower in Iraq.

Army investigators found that Maseth's death was the result of improper grounding of electrical wiring to the pump supplying water for living quarters at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad, Waxman said.

"When Staff Sergeant Maseth stepped into the shower and turned on the water, an electrical short in the pump sent an electrical current through the water pipes to the metal shower hose, and then through Staff Sergeant Maseth's arm to his heart," Waxman said.

Maseth's death was not an isolated incident, Waxman said.

"According to the Army and Marine Corps, at least 12 service members have died in Iraq as a result of electrocution since 2003," he said in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking for information on contracts.

In October 2004, the Army issued a safety publication noting that five soldiers died from electrocution in 2004. The service warned that improper grounding of electrical wires is "a factor in nearly every electrocution" and "a serious threat" to soldiers in Iraq.

Waxman is seeking uncensored documents about the Maseth death, including investigative and medical reports. The committee also wants copies of any communications between the military and contractors in Iraq involving improper electrical wiring or the need to repair electrical systems at Camp Slayer or Camp Victory.

The committee also seeks the name, rank and last known address for all U.S. military or contractor personnel who have been injured or killed as a result of electrocution in Iraq at facilities maintained under contract to the U.S. government.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


GI's Death Prompts Two Inquiries of Iraq Electrocutions
By James Risen
The New York Times

Thursday 20 March 2008

Washington - On Jan. 2, Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, a 24-year-old Green Beret from Pennsylvania, stepped into a shower at his base in the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad and was electrocuted. Now, two months later, his death has resulted in both a Congressional investigation and a Pentagon inspector general's inquiry into similar cases.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is the chairman of the House oversight committee, asked the Pentagon to cooperate in investigating reports that at least 12 soldiers and marines, including Sergeant Maseth, had been electrocuted in Iraq because of shoddy wiring and construction at bases housing American military personnel.

Mr. Waxman asked Mr. Gates to give his committee documents related to the Pentagon's management of maintenance contracts for its bases in Iraq, in part to determine whether the Defense Department had ignored earlier warnings of electrical problems.

In response, the Pentagon announced Wednesday afternoon that the matter had been turned over to the Defense Department's inspector general for a full investigation. "The Defense Department considers this to be a very serious issue," said Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman.

Separately, Sergeant Maseth's family filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in a Pennsylvania state court against KBR, the defense contractor that had been in charge of inspecting the wiring at the base where he died.

According to military documents obtained by the family's lawyer, Patrick Cavanaugh of Pittsburgh, KBR told the Defense Contracting Management Agency that there were wiring problems in the building before Sergeant Maseth's death, but nothing was done about them.

In a statement given to the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, a lawyer for KBR said that the company was aware of the electrical problems in several buildings on the base before Sergeant Maseth died, and had told the Defense Contracting Management Agency about them.

But the company lawyer said that KBR had been prevented from fixing the problems it had identified because of the way its contract with the Pentagon had been structured. On Jan. 3, the day after Sergeant Maseth's death, the Defense Department told KBR to conduct emergency inspections of wiring throughout the base. An Army report answering questions raised by Sergeant Maseth's family described the bureaucratic maze that preceded his death.

"KBR was contracted by the Defense Contracting Management Agency to perform maintenance on the building," the Jan. 21 report states. "However, the building was designated by the DCMA as a level B contract, which only required KBR to fix the building as things broke. KBR did an initial survey of the building upon assuming responsibility and noted several safety issues concerning the improper grounding of electrical devices. The contract did not cover fixing potential hazards, so those issues were never addressed."

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, KBR said that "the safety and security of all employees remains KBR's priority, and we remain committed to pledging our full cooperation with the agencies involved in investigating this matter."

The company added that "at the time of Staff Sgt. Maseth's tragic death, however, KBR was providing repair services at the facility in response to requests issued by the Army."

Investigators say they now believe that Sergeant Maseth's electrocution was caused by the faulty wiring and poor grounding of a water pump in a building dating from Saddam Hussein's time.

Aides on Mr. Waxman's committee said Wednesday that they had received reports of 12 electrocution deaths of members of the United States armed services since 2003. Virtually all appear to have been caused by shoddy wiring and electrical grounding and design, but the Congressional investigators said they did not know if any of the other cases involved the same contractors or military bureaucratic problems that were at issue in Sergeant Maseth's death.

Cheryl Harris, Sergeant Maseth's mother, said on Wednesday that she had filed a lawsuit against KBR to discover the truth about what had happened to her son, particularly because his twin brother, Brandon, was still serving in Iraq.

"I would like to have questions answered around Ryan's death, why his building wasn't grounded, why repairs weren't done when they knew there was a problem," Ms. Harris said. "I would like to have questions answered about who is accountable. And I would like to know that this can't happen again to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."
 
#2
The failure to properly earth/bond a fuel tank to a generator was a factor in the death of a civilian contractor in SLB in 2004 (static caused spark & fuel explosion during filling) along with injuries to service personnel & destruction of mil vehicles. I think that was a KBR contract, but can't remember for certain.
 
#3
Dilfor said:
The failure to properly earth/bond a fuel tank to a generator was a factor in the death of a civilian contractor in SLB in 2004 (static caused spark & fuel explosion during filling) along with injuries to service personnel & destruction of mil vehicles. I think that was a KBR contract, but can't remember for certain.
In other words "You don't know"
 
#4
craftsmanx said:
Dilfor said:
The failure to properly earth/bond a fuel tank to a generator was a factor in the death of a civilian contractor in SLB in 2004 (static caused spark & fuel explosion during filling) along with injuries to service personnel & destruction of mil vehicles. I think that was a KBR contract, but can't remember for certain.
In other words "You don't know"
Fair point.

Someone delete it then.
 
#5
the_butchers_dog said:
Interesting, given they are looking at doing stuff for the MoD.
And funnily enough, something to do with fuel!! 8O
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
Sorry guys, but I think there's more to this. [dons tinfoil hat]

1 death is tragic, 2 is even more tragic and points at something going wrong, 3 deaths smacks of incompetence, but 12? Have they got any muslim contractors on the job?
 
#8
Not anything new though.

Same happened to a young "18"years old R. Sigs lad just out of training in 82/83.

Stood in a shower in the Falklands and same accident happened.

Can't remember if the shower had been installed by by Sappers or Civies though.

A sad day indeed - R.I.P
 

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