Father of welder killed in explosion at Packaging Corporation of America facility files suit

By Dee Thompson | May 10, 2017

HOUSTON — Joe Gooch, whose son Jody was one of three workers killed in an explosion at a paper packaging plant in DeRidder, La. in February, recently filed suit in Houston against Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) and Pasadena, Texas-based Elite Industrial Services. 

Jody Gooch was a welder, and early reports indicate unsafe conditions may be to blame for the explosion that resulted in tragedy.

“We hope that this lawsuit will shed more light on what happened and reduce the likelihood of it ever happening again," Brent Coon, the attorney who is representing Joe Gooch, said. "It was very upsetting to learn that PCA apparently had something like this occur only a few years ago at another facility and didn’t do much, if anything, to keep it from happening again here.” 

OSHA [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) are investigating the cause of the accident.

Coon told the Louisiana Record that the explosion was preventable, but there are challenges to understanding exactly what happened. 

“We have talked to the lead investigators with the CSB and understand from that briefing and what we have independently determined to date that hot work was being performed above a tank that contained significant levels of combustible gases," he said. "The exact source of detonation has still not been ascertained, and based on the devastating nature of the blast and the fact that all the ground zero witnesses are dead, that detail may never be completely established.”

Coon said PCA should have known an explosion was possible, given that there had been earlier explosions at their facilities. 

“The CSB co-incidentally investigated the water tank explosion a decade ago in the Wisconsin PCA water tank explosion, and there are a number of similarities," he said. "The CSB also issued a report on that one and issued a seven-point recap of what PCA should do moving forward to avoid a possible repeat… which they apparently didn’t heed.”

Jody Gooch left behind a 16-year-old son.

“Jody had just started working out there days before this happened," Coon said. 

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Organizations in this Story

Elite Industrial Services Packaging Corporation of America U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration - Headquarters

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