Lawsuit says IP, others negligent in blast that killed one, injured 17|[05/15/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2008

A lawsuit against International Paper Company and other defendants was filed Wednesday in Warren County Circuit Court alleging negligence in a boiler blast there 13 days ago.

Four people remain in critical condition from the explosion that killed one person and injured 17.

The suit was filed on behalf of 52-year-old Glenn Rankin by Jackson attorney Robert F. Wilkins and seeks $1 million plus punitive damages.

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Wilkins said Rankin, a Claiborne County resident, was a contract employee injured at the mill near Redwood and was slammed backward into a wall when the boiler exploded.

Except for those with severe burns, other injured people were treated at River Region Medical Center and released. Spokesmen for both Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., where four explosion victims were in critical condition, and Baton Rouge General Burn Center said that Rankin was not admitted to either of those hospitals.

IP beginsjob cutsIP has declined to release the names of the injured workers, saying all worked for contractors performing scheduled maintenance. The company has also declined to identify its contractors.

Along with IP, defendants listed in the lawsuit are John Adams, the mill’s environmental health and safety manager, Walter Cooper, Lucius Hinkles, Larry Henderson, all said to be employees at IP when the explosion occurred, and John Does 1-100, who represent defendants unknown to the plaintiff but involved in the manufacture, distribution, installation, maintenance, repair or sale of the recovery boiler that exploded.

The suit alleges the explosion “was the result of the concurrent negligence and/or reckless conduct of the named defendants,” and “the result of either the defective and/or negligent design and/or installation/construction of the recovery boiler.”

The complaint also said “the machinery and equipment was unreasonably dangerous to the users,” and that “the defendants knew, or should have known.”

Amy Sawyer, spokesman for IP, was unable to be reached for comment.

Killed in the explosion was 28-year-old Marcus Christopher Broome, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Broome left behind his wife, Brooke, and twin 4-year-old daughters, Madison and Olivia. Broome was a union industrial insulator hired to assist the mill in restarting operations after its annual shutdown for maintenance and repairs.

Broome and two of the four still at the Georgia hospital were industrial insulators with M-Co of Vicksburg. Two of the four have been identified as brothers Robert and Kenneth Townsend. The others have not been identified.

About 400 people, including IP’s 306 regular employees, were at the mill when the boiler exploded. All were accounted for, company officials have said.

The IP explosion came about two weeks before the sixth anniversary of a deadly blast at the Rouse Polymerics plant on U.S. 61 South. Five people were killed and seven injured.

Wilkins said he represented victims in that explosion as well.