Jury hears opening statements in deadly 2013 Geismar plant explo - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Jury hears opening statements in deadly 2013 Geismar plant explosion trial

Source: Witness Source: Witness

The civil trial regarding a deadly 2013 explosion at a Geismar chemical plant is underway as attorneys delivered opening statements Wednesday at the Iberville Parish Courthouse. 

The Williams-Olefins company is being sued by four contractors who were working at the plant on Thursday, June 13, 2013 when an explosion left two people dead and more than 70 others injured.

In the lawsuit, the contractors claim Williams-Olefins management and the plant's owner, the Williams Company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, knew that employees were in danger before the explosion occurred.

Their attorney Kurt Arnold said during opening statements that this was, "not hindsight, this was a known risk." He said management disconnected a piece of equipment from a pressure relief system in 2001 for maintenance and did not re-connect it, resulting in the explosion. 

Tony Clayton, who also represents the plaintiffs, said they are confident in their case. 

"We believe in our case; we believe the facts will show that what took place out there, they're at fault for it," Clayton said. "And we plan on putting forth witnesses tomorrow to prove it." 

However, defense attorney Jim Dore, representing Williams-Olefins, said the company admits it made a mistake, but did not know an explosion was imminent and did not intentionally put its employees' lives in danger. 

Representatives with Williams Olefins declined an on-camera interview, but released the following statement:

The June 2013 incident at the Williams Olefins Geismar Plant was truly unfortunate. Williams Olefins has admitted, in numerous legal-related filings and ensuing reports, that mistakes were made. But there was never any intent to injure anyone. The theory that Williams Olefins intended this accident to occur defies common sense. 

The June 2013 incident was an accident. The facts show the incident was caused by an unfortunate alignment of distinct factors that had never occurred in the history of the facility. These were mistakes, not knowing or intentional acts. 

We fully support our three employees that are named defendants, and legal counsel continues to vigorously defend our colleagues and the company to the fullest extent. Safety and protection of employees, contractors and communities in which Williams does business is, and always has been, our number one priority. Williams Olefins continues to work to rebuild our reputation as a safe and reliable supplier of olefins and continues to focus on being an outstanding employer and responsible member of the Iberville Parish and Ascension Parish communities. 

A representative of the plaintiffs said he expects the trial to last two weeks. The plaintiffs are seeking millions of dollars in damages for medical expenses and lost wages. 

RELATED: Chemical plant explosion leaves 2 dead, 77 injured

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