The mother of a West Virginia State University student who died less than three weeks after an August 2008 explosion at Bayer CropScience’s Institute plant says he died as a result of exposure to substances released during the incident. Ra’Sean Gray, a student at the University, died September 18, 2008 in a local hospital after being admitted for respiratory distress. An autopsy found that the student died as the result of a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the main artery of the lungs.
The victim’s mother, Portia Gray, filed a wrongful death suit in a state court, alleging that the student died as a result of the explosion. The suit says the teen obeyed a shelter-in-place order that night and remained indoors at an unspecified location until an all-clear signal was given. When he returned to his dorm room later that night, he found his window, which faced the direction of the Bayer plant, open and dust or soot covering the room. It’s alleged that he noticed a foul-smelling odor.
The University was said to have been notified several times of the condition of his room and at least one request was made for it to be cleaned. On September 17th, the student went to the emergency department of a local hospital complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. He was treated and released. The following day, he was again admitted to the hospital and died following respiratory distress. The suit alleges that Bayer failed to maintain its Institute plant in a reasonably safe condition and neglected to warn the public of the release of chemicals hazardous to human health. Bayer is said to have been at fault since air monitors – designed to trigger alarms if hazardous chemicals are released – were out of service for maintenance on the day of the explosion.
The suit also names West Virginia State University and the State Board of Education as co-Defendants, saying they were negligent in responding to Gray’s requests to have his room cleaned of the dust and soot he found on the night of the explosion.
In April, the company agreed to pay a $143,000 fine to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to resolve 15 safety citations stemming from the explosion. Bayer also said in 2009 it would spend nearly $25 million on safety upgrades at the Institute plant. As part of that, the company agreed to cut storage of the hazardous chemical methyl isocyanate by 80% and build an underground storage tank to hold the chemical. The company also has agreed to eliminate use of the pesticide aldicarb – a major product made at the Institute site.
Bayer Corp. President Greg Babe has admitted that the company “did not handle the situation well during and after the incident.” He says Bayer is “working hard to restore trust” and is making safety improvements. This is the first wrongful death suit arising out of the August 2008 explosion at the plant. Two Bayer employees died from injuries that occurred during the incident. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is still conducting an investigation into the explosion. The Board’s report should be released sometime this fall.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.