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In early June, a federal jury in St. Louis awarded $180 million to three men who suffered blast injuries and severe burns while working in a Chester, IL grain bin that exploded in 2010.

One of the men, John Jentz of St. Peter, MN clearly remembers the explosion at the ConAgra grain bin: “I heard the bang. I heard the rushing of the air, and the fireball,” he said. Jentz’s co-worker, Robert Schmidt, was riding down a single-lift hoist when the explosion occurred. “It was probably the third boom when I realized that an explosion was happening, and I just froze–I knelt down and started praying,” Schmidt said. “I thought, ‘This is it, I am going to die.'”

Chicago attorney Robert Clifford, who represented Jentz and Schmidt, said there had been signs of trouble in the grain bin before the explosion, such as temperature readings of up to 400 degrees. Clifford asserted that grain bin operators ignored safety problems because they were trying to maximize use of the product. “It was either because they didn’t want to close down the facility, or they were trying to save the product that they were trying to extract so that they could resell it,” he said.

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In the past several years, small fires were actually common at Hoeganaes Corporation’s metal powder plant outside Nashville. By early 2011, some workers had become good at beating down flames with gloved hands or a fire extinguisher.

The company’s own product fueled the fires: Scrap metal comes into the plant and is melted, atomized and dried into a fine iron powder that is sold to makers of car parts. But often, powder leaked from equipment and settled on ledges and rafters. One worker said he could hear the popping sound of dust sparking when it touched live electricity.

In the early morning of January 31, 2011, a worker was called to check out a malfunctioning bucket elevator that moves dust through the plant. Near his feet, electrical wires lay exposed. When the machine restarted, the jolt knocked dust into the air. A spark — likely from the exposed wires — turned the dust cloud into a ball of flame that engulfed the worker. He suffered severe burns over 95 percent of his body, and lived just two more days at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s burn unit before dying.

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In Waldorf, Maryland last week, local doctors came to the aid of a man who accidentally set himself on fire while trying to light a homemade barbecue pit.

The man was treated for first degree burns and second degree burns across nearly 50 percent of his body. Authorities say the man was burned when vapors from the flammable liquid he had poured over the wood inside a 270-gallon barrel ignited, and caused a flash fire.

Luckily, the man was able to drive himself to a local hospital, but he was later transferred to the burn unit at Washington Hospital Center. However, if there had been other people around him when the fire took place, they could have suffered severe burns to their skin or lungs as well. In such a case, it is likely that the man would have faced a liability lawsuit due to negligence in creating a grill from a barrel that is not intended for such use.

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In eastern Pennsylvania last week, a machine battery at a production plant overheated and ruptured, and then began leaking acid onto other batteries that were nearby. This caused the other batteries to melt and release poisonous smoke that filled the entire building.

Although all employees evacuated safely, a number of them later in that week experienced breathing problems, coughing, headaches and other illness. Doctors who treated these employees said that in most cases, the lungs and throat are mildly inflamed from the smoke inhalation (the smoke contains hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide in it, both of which are potentially deadly in humans). The doctors’ suggested remedy: Drink lots of water and take Advil or another ibuprofen product to reduce the inflammation in the body. It was fortunate that no employees touched the leaking batteries, as it is very easy to suffer third degree burns from battery acid.

Although there will probably not be a lawsuit filed against the company for legal liability due to negligence–batteries do sometimes overheat and leak–this story is a good reminder for anyone who work in an industrial facility: make sure the facility has working smoke detectors, and also know where the emergency exits are so you can escape quickly even if visibility is bad due to a smoke condition. Also, be sure to get your face down to the floor in order to avoid smoke inhalation–when there is smoke or fire, the cleanest air to breathe is down at floor level.

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A California family is coming to Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento as often as three times a month for treatment of third degree burns they say their baby incurred inside another hospital.

On March 28, 2012, Lylah’s parents, Tiffany Payne and Stanley Quezada, took the baby to Mercy Merced’s emergency room suffering from diarrhea and dehydration. According to Payne, a nurse tried to start an intravenous line, but was unable to do so. They then called a phlebotomist from the pediatric unit to come down and do it. But Quezada says they pricked the baby’s skin a total of 14 times.

The family attorney, Moseley Collins, says in an attempt to try to find the vein, a nurse held a bright light to Lylah’s left palm. However, the nurse did not realize the light was so hot it was causing third degree burns. “It was held up to the baby’s hand for about eight minutes,” Payne said. “She was screaming at the top of her lungs.”

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In mid-May in Joliet, IL, an investigation found that there was no criminal activity involved in a fire that caused the burn death of a 3-year-old boy just days before. The cause of the fire was an accidental electrical malfunction, local fire officials said. There will probably be no liability lawsuit for negligence stemming from this incident.

The child was found in a second-floor bedroom of a home on Sterling Avenue in Joliet, IL. The boy died of soot and smoke inhalation from the house fire, according to the Will County coroner’s office. The boy was pronounced dead shortly after the fire.

The boy’s uncle and another child were on the first floor when the fire started. The uncle had been watching the children because the victim’s mother had left to take a relative to a doctor’s appointment. “The uncle tried to make entry to the room but he was forced back by the fire,” said one fire official. Neighbors who heard the man crying came to his aid but were also not able to help. They too ran into the house, “but the flames coming out of this bedroom were so intense that no one could get to this child.”

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In Arlington Heights, Illinois on May 22, one person was killed and ten injured in an explosion at an industrial complex in this suburban Chicago town.

Emergency officials there responded to reports of an explosion inside a manufacturer called Arens Controls, which produces power management systems for commercial vehicles (batteries, etc.). A woman who lives two blocks from the facility told reporters that she heard a large explosion at around 8:30 a.m. An Arlington Heights Fire Department official said the explosion involved a machine inside the facility. One person was pronounced dead shortly after the blast, while at least ten people were taken to Northwest Community Hospital, some of them requiring treatment for severe burns.

Signs outside the affected building indicated that Motorola, Honeywell and a Home Depot training college are also housed there. There was no word at the time as to whether any employees of these firms were injured in the explosion. It is also unclear at this time if there is any legal liability due to negligence on the part of the Arens Controls or any of its employees for the explosion.

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The lone survivor of a small-airplane crash in southeast Kansas recently underwent skin graft surgery to treat third degree burns across 28 percent of her body. Hannah Luce of Garden Valley, Texas, a recent graduate of Oral Roberts University, was flying with four others to a Christian youth rally in Iowa when their twin-engine Cessna crashed northwest of Chanute, Kansas.

All the other people, including the pilot, died in the crash. Hannah Luce is the daughter of Ron Luce, an Oral Roberts trustee and founder of Teen Mania Ministries, which was sponsoring the rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She was treated at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. A spokesperson there said that Hannah was in serious condition but was expected to make a full recovery.

“She went into her first surgery for skin grafts on burns she suffered on her left leg, her arms and her hands,” said a spokesperson for the family. “The doctors are saying it’s a miracle Hannah didn’t suffer more internal trauma.” Hannah was off a respirator and breathing on her own several days after the crash, and was awake and answering questions before surgery.

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In Washington DC in mid-May, a man suffered severe burns when a small propane tank exploded during a buffet dinner event at the National Building Museum, a museum dedicated to architecture, design, and construction. The museum frequently hosts exhibitions and special events that offer food and beverage service.

The dangerous incident happened when a catering company’s propane tank exploded, causing a flash fire inside the building during the event. One man was rushed to a local hospital with potentially life-threatening third degree burns.

Two issues come into play regarding this incident:

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Last week in New Haven CT, the father of three young girls killed in a Christmas morning house fire filed a lawsuit, accusing the city of Stamford of allowing the house to become a fire trap by failing to properly oversee construction.

Richard Emery, attorney for Matthew Badger, confirmed that a notice of intent to sue the city was filed in early May. He said the city failed to ensure fire or smoke alarms were hooked up when children were living in a residence under construction. “They allowed a fire trap to exist, under their supervision, with children in it,” Emery said. But a city official said recently that building inspectors last examined the work in July 2011 and did not find any problems.

Matthew Badger’s daughters, 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace, and their grandparents were killed by third degree burns and smoke inhalation during the fire at the girls’ mother’s house. Extensive home renovations were taking place during the daytime hours for several weeks up until the fire, which was started by a house guest who left a pile of hot fireplace ashes in a sack on the front porch. The ashes burned through the bag, and the house burned very quickly because of its wood structure as well as the construction materials being stored there.