Lawsuit filed to determine cause of Georgia-Pacific plant explosion

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - On Tuesday, Mike Love & Associates issued a press release announcing that the law firm has filed a suit in Polk County on behalf of Kenny Morris.

The lawsuit is seeking a court order that will require Georgia-Pacific to provide sworn testimony about the event leading up to the April 26 fire and explosion at the plant that took the lives of two employees - Morris and Charles Kovar - and injured "at least five others."

"In the days following the explosion, Georgia-Pacific representatives agreed to allow investigators retained by Mr. Love and Ms. Leger to investigate the scene and to photograph key evidence," the press release stated. "The company also released a number of employee witness statements and agreed to cooperate with the investigation being conducted on behalf of injured employees and their families."

Eric Abercrombie, a spokesman for Georgia-Pacific, declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, explaining that it is a legal matter, and an investigation is still pending by the "proper authorities, including OSHA."

According to the press release, Mike Love & Associates, Jane Swearingen Leger, and Provost-Umphrey have obtained several important documents since the fire and explosion. However, Georgia-Pacific has refused to provide other documents and computer data necessary to determine the cause of the fire and explosion.

"The lawsuit was filed to force Georgia-Pacific to disclose the records needed to determine the underlying cause of the explosion such as the computer logs from the fire suppression system, design, maintenance, and inspection documents for the fire suppression system and the corporate Fire Protection Manual," the press release stated.

Abercrombie said Jimmy Williams the last of the seven GP employees injured in the explosion that is still in the hospital was transferred from Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston to the Nexus Specialty Hospital in the Woodlands.

"That's certainly encouraging news," Abercrombie said. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family."

Ralph Figgs, who was also transported to Memorial Herman in the wake of the fire and explosion, has since been released from the hospital.

In a previous East Texas News story, Abercrombie, said the other three employees were taken to a Lufkin hospital, where they were treated and released.

Abercrombie said around 6:30 p.m. on April 26 there was an incident at the Corrigan plywood facility in the bag house. He described the bag house as a grain silo type structure that is 25 feet high and 12 foot in diameter. The bag house collects dust from sanding plywood.

Anytime you work with wood and wood fiber it can get hot and a fire can happen, Abercrombie said. He explained that Georgia-Pacific is fully equipped to deal with those types of situations and at this time the cause of the incident Saturday is unknown.

According to Abercrombie, a fire happened in the bag house and the pressure built up inside. The explosion doors, which are designed to open and vent out pressure, did what they were designed to do in such an incident.

"It was contained to the bag house and a bag house is where we collect dust from the sanding of our plywood," Abercrombie said. "It's part of the process. It's also an environmental control to help reduce the emissions of particles into the atmosphere."

Abercrombie said there were employees in the vicinity when the doors opened to release the pressure and flames came out through those doors.

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