Cleaners Killed in Railcar Explosion

MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2015

OMAHA, NE—Federal investigators are still combing an Omaha railyard for clues to a catastrophic railcar explosion that claimed the lives of two cleaners.

A third worker was blown off the car in the blast but was wearing a harness that spared him serious injury, a spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration told reporters.

The deceased were identified as Dallas Foulk, 40, and Adrian M. LaPour, 44, both of Omaha.

Joeseph Coschka survived the incident, which is under investigation by OSHA.

All three men worked for Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services, of Omaha, which had been hired by GE Capital Rail Services.

Toxic Buildup

The blast occurred about 1:10 p.m. Tuesday (April 14) at the repair shop of a GE Capital rail yard.

Foulk, who had reportedly been working atop the railcar, was found on the ground near a tank car when emergency responders arrived. He was taken to Creighton Univerity Medical Center in extremely critical condition and died a short time later.

LaPour was inside the car and trapped there by the blast, officials said. A ladder shot out of the car when the explosion occurred, reports said.


Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services also provides blasting and dismantlement services.

High levels of hazardous chemicals prevented rescue workers from entering the car for hours, Battalion Chief Tim McCaw of the Omaha Fire Department told McCaw said crews tested the levels at least twice before entering.

“We always err on the side of caution,” McCaw told the news site. “You have to just kind of wait, do the ventilation, do your due diligence, and then let the readings come down before we enter.”

LaPour's body was recovered about 7:30 p.m.

Investigators were still trying to determine what chemicals were in the car.

Railcar Cleaning

NRCS says it has "several years of experience" and calls itself "one of the largest direct class 1 served railcar cleaning operations in the Central Midwest." The company also provides abrasive blasting and railcar dismantlement services.


A buildup of hazardous chemicals prevented rescue crews from entering the car for hours.

Mobile cleaning services are "provided by employees with experience and extensive training. Each one has the certifications and qualifications that are required by OSHA, in addition to the extra training NRCS requires of its employee," NRCS says.

According to its website, the company's cleaning process begins with the use of a portable steam boiler to heat up the cars. From there, the process varies depending on the cargo.

NRCS referred all calls Friday (April 17) to its attorney, who did not respond to a request for comment.

GE Capital Rail Services said in a statement that it was "focused on the safety of those in the shop, and our thoughts and sympathies are with those who were affected by this unfortunate accident."

Smoking Alleged, Disputed

An unidentified former employee of Nebraska Railcar suggested in an interview with WOWT-TV, the local NBC affiliate, that the deaths could have been caused by one of the victims smoking.


Joesoph Coschka, who survived the blast, denied allegations by an unidentified former employee that the victims may have been smoking.  "I know that they were talking about how heavy the fumes were in the car, so, I know they wouldn't have been dumb enough to be smoking in there," he said.

"You know, a guy would light up a cigarette in between railcars and these cars all have placards on them, saying 'flammability,' so, negligence on employees and the training," said the man, who was not shown on camera.

Coschka, the survivor of the explosion, hotly disputed that allegation in a separate interview.

"I know that they were talking about how heavy the fumes were in the car, so, I know they wouldn't have been dumb enough to be smoking in there," Coschka told the station.

He said he knew that the victims had not been smoking "and their families need to know that wasn't the case."

Foulk's girlfriend, meanwhile, said he "would often tell her that Nebraska Rail Car Cleaning Services was not following guidelines," the station reported in a separate segment.

OSHA Record

OSHA's enforcement database was unavailable Friday, but news reports said that the agency had inspected NRCS three times in the last five years.

A follow-up inspection in March found seven violations that had been cited in 2013 "related to flammable and combustible liquids, confined spaces permits, noise exposure, respiratory protection and powered industrial trucks," reported.



Tagged categories: Confined space; Explosions; Fatalities; hazardous materials; Health & Safety; North America; OSHA; Railcars

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