Military scrambles to inspect more than 90,000 facilities to reduce deadly threat
Pfc. Justin Shults shows some of the burn wounds he received after being electrocuted in a shower facility in Iraq, in this photo taken in January 2009 in San Antonio, Texas. Shults suffered third-degree burns on 13 percent of his body. He is suing contractor KBR Inc. for faulty wiring of the facility. (Photo credit: Kin Man Hui / San Antonio Express-News via AP)
March 26, 2009
WASHINGTON – The military is racing to inspect more than 90,000 U.S.-run facilities across Iraq to reduce a deadly threat troops face far off the battlefield: electrocution or shock while showering or using appliances.
About one-third of the inspections so far have turned up major electrical problems, according to interviews and an internal military document obtained by The Associated Press. Half of the problems they found have since been fixed but about 65,000 facilities still need to be inspected, which could take the rest of this year. Senior Pentagon officials were on Capitol Hill this week for briefings on the findings.
The work assigned to Task Force SAFE, which oversees the inspections and repairs, is aimed at preventing deaths like that of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, of Pittsburgh. He died in January 2008, one of at least three soldiers killed while showering since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
‘It’s Russian roulette’
Scores more soldiers suffered shocks between September 2006 and July 2008, according to a database maintained by KBR Inc., the Houston-based contractor that oversees maintenance at most U.S. facilities in Iraq.
“We got a ton of buildings we know probably aren’t safe and we just don’t have them done yet,” said Jim Childs, an electrician the task force hired to help with the inspections. “It’s Russian roulette. I cringe every time I hear of a shock.”
Ron Vance, who served as a sergeant in the California Army National Guard, remembers being knocked out cold in a shower building in 2004 in Taji, Iraq. He said he screamed and fell while showering, suffering burns on his back and shoulders. Another soldier who tried to pry him from the shower head also was injured. Vance, 57, of Fresno, Calif., said he’s still too traumatized to shower without his wife nearby. …
Last year, 94 troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan or other Central Command countries sought medical treatment for electric shock, according to Defense Department health data. KBR’s database lists 231 electric shock incidents in the more than 89,000 facilities the company runs in Iraq, according to military records. …
KBR is the target of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Maseth’s family. They claim the company knew there were electrical problems in the building where he died, but didn’t fix them. His mother testified last year on Capitol Hill. … Army investigators have since reclassified Maseth’s death as negligent homicide caused by KBR and two of its supervisors. …
KBR and another contractor, Arkel International, are the targets of a second lawsuit, filed by the family of another soldier electrocuted in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Christopher Lee Everett, 23, of Huntsville, Texas. Everett, a member of the Texas Army National Guard, was killed in September 2005 when the power washer he was using to clean a vehicle short-circuited. …
Electric Sacrifice in Iraq (Feb. 8, 2009)
Shoddy Contracting Kills Troops (Nov. 25, 2008)
Team warns of ‘catastrophic’ wiring in Iraq (AP, April 8, 2009 ) – A military team sent to evaluate electrical problems at U.S. facilities in Iraq determined there was a high risk that flawed wiring could cause further “catastrophic results” – namely, the electrocutions of U.S. soldiers. … Full story
Sept. 8, 2009
WASHINGTON – A State Department contractor apparently has been electrocuted while showering in Baghdad even as U.S. authorities in Iraq try to remedy wiring problems that have led to the deaths of American troops there.
The contractor, Adam Hermanson, 25, died Sept. 1, his wife, Janine, said Tuesday. She added that a military medical examiner told her that preliminary findings indicate her husband died from low voltage electrocution.
At least three troops have been electrocuted in the shower since the start of the Iraq War, while others have been electrocuted under other circumstances such as while operating a power washer. Inspections and repairs are under way at 90,000 U.S.-maintained structures there.
Hermanson grew up in San Diego and Las Vegas. He joined the military at age 17, and did three tours in Iraq with the Air Force before leaving at the rank of staff sergeant. He returned to Iraq as an employee of private contractor Triple Canopy, based in Herndon, Va. …
Besides three Iraq tours, Adam Hermanson served in Uzbekistan with the Air Force. His mother, Patricia Hermanson, 53, of Las Vegas, said everyone in her family was struggling to understand how he could survive four war tours, then die suddenly in a seemingly safe place.
“We all know that Adam was as strong as a tank,” his mother said. “He was in good health.”
In July, the Defense Department’s inspector general said that of the 18 electrocution deaths of U.S. soldiers and contractors in Iraq, eight involved possible equipment faults or malfunctioning that caused or contributed to the electrocutions. The accidental touching of live wires was blamed in about half the deaths.
Policemen inspect the wreckage of a vehicle used in a car bomb attack in Baghdad on Thursday, March 18, 2009. The bomb in a crowded shopping district in north Baghdad killed at least 20 people and wounded 35 others, police say. (Photo credit: Mohammed Ameen / Reuters)
March 26, 2009
BAGHDAD – A car bomb exploded near a crowded market in a mainly Shiite area in Baghdad on Thursday, killing as many as 20 people, Iraqi officials said, in the fifth major attack in Iraq this month.
The blast came a day after the U.S. military said overall attacks nationwide have fallen to levels of the early months of the war, which began with the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
The car was parked near a bus terminal surrounded by shops in the eastern Shaab district when it blew up shortly after noon on Thursday, the officials said.
Iraqi police and hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information, said the 20 killed included four children and four women. The officials said 35 people also were wounded. …
Shaab is a former Shiite militia stronghold that has seen a sharp drop in violence since anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr declared a cease-fire amid a crackdown by the U.S. and Iraqi militaries.
But Baghdad and surrounding areas have seen a spike in bombings, raising concern that Sunni insurgents may be regrouping as the U.S. begins to hand over security responsibility to the Iraqis ahead of a planned American troop withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Thursday’s attack came three days after a suicide bomber struck a Kurdish funeral in the northern town of Jalula, killing 27 people. Another bombing on Monday killed eight people in the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad.
Two separate suicide bombings targeting tribal leaders and Iraqi security forces earlier this month in Baghdad and in Abu Ghraib killed a total of 63 people.
A car bomb also tore through a livestock market in the Shiite city of Hillah on March 5, killing 13 people. …
Following are security developments in Iraq on Thursday, March 26, 2009, as reported by Reuters.
BAGHDAD – A blast killed two people and wounded four in northern Baghdad’s Shaab district, police said. They did not know the cause of the blast and said the death toll may rise.
BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to the car of Qais Safaa, secretary to the justice minister, seriously wounded him on Wednesday in Haifa Street, central Baghdad, police said. Another passenger and two passers-by were also wounded in the blast.
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb wounded five civilians on Wednesday when it exploded near a U.S. military patrol in the Qahira district of northern Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb wounded four civilians on Wednesday when it went off near a U.S. military patrol in Baghdad’s northern Adhamiya district, police said.
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