The widow of a Colonial Pipeline contract worker who was killed near Pelham, Alabama when a section of leaking pipeline exploded is taking Colonial and other defendant companies to court, alleging they knew the pipeline was in a dangerous state of disrepair but neglected to take even the minimal safety precautions to protect their workers.
Beverly Kay Willingham’s husband, Anthony Lee Willingham, was one of two workers who died when the Colonial pipeline exploded on Oct. 31, 2016. The deadly blast occurred as crews worked to repair a section of the pipeline that had failed the previous month, releasing more than 300,000 gallons of gasoline near the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area in central Alabama. The blast also injured five others.
Mr. Willingham worked for L.E. Bell, an Alabama construction company contracted by Colonial to repair the damaged pipeline. Colonial Pipeline also hired Superior Land Designs LLC, a Georgia engineering and construction inspection firm specializing in pipeline projects, to oversee the repairs.
On the day of the explosion, Colonial Pipeline’s inspector, Nicky Cobb, failed to report to the excavation site, even when there was some question about the underground pipeline’s location. He instructed the inspector for Superior to allow the excavation to proceed. Excavation workers accidentally struck the pipeline, causing it to blast about 170,000 gallons of gasoline, which ignited and created a massive explosion.
“There is never an excuse for a company to disregard safety in the name of profit or speed. This tragedy would not have happened if these defendants had taken the necessary steps to maintain this pipeline properly and safely, to provide competent supervision on site and at a minimum to have accurate maps showing where its underground components were located so crews could operate safely,” said Mike Andrews of the Beasley Allen law firm, which is representing Ms. Willingham. “Anthony Willingham went to work as usual on the day of the explosion but did not return home to his family that night because of the negligence and carelessness of the defendants.”
The Colonial Pipeline is the main artery for refined petroleum products on the East Coast. Its 5,000-mile network extends from Houston, Texas to Linden, New Jersey, delivering more than 100 millions of gallons of fuel every day.
The deadly explosion was the latest in a series of 185 other “significant” safety incidents Colonial Pipeline racked up over the preceding decade, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration.