First legal action taken in deadly chemical release

LA PORTE, Texas – A Houston attorney has filed a temporary restraining order against DuPont over Saturday's chemical release that killed four employees and injured a fifth person.

Brent Coon represents the daughter of Chrystle Rae Wise, 48, who was killed during the industrial incident. Coon wants the company to preserve all records and machinery relating to the incident and the operation of the Crop Protection Unit at the DuPont plant in La Porte.

"So this just basically keeps everything frozen in time," said Coon.

Wise, Wade Baker and brothers Robert and Gilbert Tisando were killed when methyl mercaptan was released inside the unit. A fifth worker, who has not yet been identified, was treated at a hospital and has since been released.

"Our job is go out and find out what happened and to hold the firm accountable and hold the company accountable to the people that lost their lives," said Coon.

An eight-member team from the Federal Chemical Safety Board is also looking for a cause. The team began interviewing employees Monday, but has not yet been able to enter the five-story structure where the workers died. The area has not yet been deemed safe.

Coon said one immediate cause for concern was the 911 call from a plant supervisor. Local 2 obtained an audio recording of that emergency call.

"And you don't know what kind of chemical it is?" a dispatcher is heard asking a DuPont supervisor.

"No ma'am. As soon as I find out I will let you know. I have got my team trying to determine that right now," the supervisor said.

The supervisor is then heard telling the dispatcher there was no danger to the surrounding public, even though he was unsure as to what type of chemicals were involved in the incident.

"It ought to scare the hell of you," said Coon. "The manager should have known. First of all, there should be a chain of command in play where they know what's going on."

Coon said he is also be taking a close look at what problems may have been happening in that area of the plant prior to the employees entering the area.

"We've not been able to find out yet the specifics of what those problems were and, unfortunately, most of the witnesses are now dead,' said Coon.

Investigators with the CSB said they are also requesting all maintenance logs, training and equipment histories as part of the probe into this fatal accident.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”