A U.S. House committee chairman has begun investigating the electrocutions of at least 12 service members in Iraq. In the latest incident in January, a soldier was killed by a jolt of electricity while showering. Top of FormRep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to hand over documents relating to the management of electrical systems at facilities in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, who was only 24, died of cardiac arrest in January after being electrocuted while showering at his barracks in Baghdad. Sgt. Maseth’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a Pennsylvania state court against KBR Inc., the Houston-based contractor responsible for maintaining the soldier’s barracks. The lawsuit alleges that KBR allowed U.S. troops to continue using electrical systems “which KBR knew to be dangerous and knew had caused prior instances of electrocution.”
An Army investigation found that the soldier’s death was due to improper grounding of the electric pump that supplied water to the building. He died after an electrical short in the pump sent a current through the pipes. The Pentagon has turned the matter over to the department’s inspector general for a full investigation. It is being reported that since 2003, at least 12 service members have died in Iraq as a result of electrocution. In October 2004, Rep. Waxman said in his letter, the Army issued a safety alert noting that five soldiers had been electrocuted that year and that improper grounding was a factor in nearly all of the cases. Rep. Waxman asked that his committee be provided investigative reports on the dead soldiers and reports and communications regarding electrical grounding in military facilities in Iraq.
In a January 21st memo responding to questions from Sgt. Maseth’s family, the Army’s criminal investigations division said the Chinese-made pump was acquired before KBR took over maintenance of the building and did not meet U.S. safety standards. Of course that doesn’t excuse the conduct of KBR. As we all know, this company was formerly owned by Halliburton Co., the oil services conglomerate once led by Vice President Cheney. I was shocked to learn that the military initially did not tell the soldier’s mother that her son was electrocuted, but then told her he died “with a small electrical appliance in the shower.” Only later did she learn the truth, which is most disturbing.
Source: Associated Press
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