KBR electrocution deaths

July 18, 2008

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Story Transcript

KBR Electrocution Deaths

By Harry Hanbury

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): This morning, this is a hearing of the Democratic Policy Committee, and this is the 17th in a series of hearings we have held over nearly four years on the subject of oversight with respect to contracting in Iraq.

CHERYL HARRIS, MOTHER OF STAFF SGT. RYAN MASETH: Since the time my twins and their younger brother Adam entered the army, I always lived with the fear that I may face the news that one of my sons had been killed in the line of duty. On January 2, 2008, that fear was realized. What I did not expect to hear, though, was the manner of death that my son Ryan, a decorated Army Ranger and Green Beret, experienced. I was dumbstruck to hear in the days following the news of my son’s death that he was electrocuted while taking a shower in his living quarters on his army base at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad. I have learned that my son’s electrocution was the result of a failure to correct a known electrical hazard in a building replete with electrical hazards. There, lying on the ground, was my son’s body, burnt and smoldering. One of the soldiers who attempted to rescue Ryan was himself shocked, because the electrical current was still running through the water in the pipes in Ryan’s bathroom. I have also learned that Kellogg Brown & Root knew of this very hazard since at least February 10, 2007—eleven months before Ryan’s death—when they conducted an inspection of the facilities where Ryan lived. It is my understanding that the prior occupant of Ryan’s room was shocked in the same room four to five times between June and October 2007 in the exact shower where Ryan was killed. According to a sworn affidavit, each time a soldier was shocked, he submitted a work order to KBR.

DEBBIE CRAWFORD, FORMER KBR ELECTRICIAN: KBR has claimed that its contract did not cover fixing potential hazards, only repairing them after they broke down. It is my professional opinion that reported electrical shocks are not a potential hazard—it is an imminent hazard that needs immediate attention to prevent serious injury and death.

TEXT ON SCREEN: KBR Statement Regarding Iraq Electrocutions Issue. The safety and security of all employees remains KBR’s priority and we remain committed to pledging our full cooperation with the agencies involved in investigating this matter. At the time of Staff sergeant Maseth’s tragic death, however, KBR was providing repair services at the facility in response to requests issued by the Army.

LARRAINE MCGEE, MOTHER OF STAFF SGT. CHRISTOPHER EVERETT: On September 7, 2005, Chris was working in the motor pool at Camp Taqaddum in Iraq. He was power-washing the sand from the underside of a Humvee that needed to be worked on. He was working alone at about 6:15 p.m. when he was instantly killed by an electrical shock. When the army presented me with this report, they led me to believe that Chris’s incident was the first such fatality. They told me outright that as a result of Chris’s death, all generators across Iraq were being properly grounded, so that this would not happen again. Not until April 30, 2008, when Jim Risen from The New York Times contacted me, did I find out differently. I now know that Chris was the fourth soldier to be electrocuted due to faulty electrical grounding and that there had been at least eleven soldiers in all electrocuted since 2003.

CRAWFORD: Qualified electricians found it difficult to deal with the complacency, the lack of leadership, the lack of tools and material, and the lack of safety. Many didn’t make it a month before they quit and went home.

JEFFREY BLISS, FORMER KBR ELECTRICIAN: KBR failed to provide adequate supervision of the work done by its electricians at almost every base I went to in Afghanistan. This lack of supervision was part of what I consider a good-old-boy network, where communication was poor and professionalism almost non-existent.

CRAWFORD: It saddens and angers me that at least eleven American soldiers and two civilian contractors have died due to electrocution not in combat, but at camps and bases where they should have felt the safest.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.