On Friday, the captain of a petroleum barge that exploded in a Chicago canal back in 2005 received a six-month prison sentence, according to prosecutors. The incident took the life of one crew member.
36-year-old Dennis Egan, from central Illinois’ Topeka, along with the owner of the barge, Egan marine Corp. of Lemont, were both convicted in June of last year in regard to the negligent manslaughter of a seafarer as well as to the negligent discharging of oil into the waterway, as evident by the prosecutors’ statement.
The court ordered the Chicago-based company to pay restitution in the amount of USD 5.3 million to the National Pollution Funds Center in order to cover the cost of all clean-up procedures.
Back on January 19th, 2006, a barge that was being pushed by the Lisa E tow boat along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and that was carrying a cargo of close to 600,000 gallons of clarified slurry oil en route from an ExxonMobil refinery to the Ameropan Oil facility, located on the south side of the city, exploded after 29-year-old Alexander Oliva, a member of the vessel’s crew used a propane torch in order to heat the cargo pump of the barge and thus ignited oil vapors.
Using an open flame on a loaded petroleum barge is a direct violation of the United States Coast Guard regulations and also contradicts safe industry practice, according to the prosecutors.
The explosion that resulted from the crewman’s actions led to the discharging of thousands of gallons of oil into the waterway. The appointed teams were able to recover Oliva’s body weeks later.
When accounting for the total costs regarding procedures needed to handle the incident the amounted sum was pinpointed to be over USD 12 million.
James Zagel, a United States District Judge, concluded that Egan and Egan Marine had issued permission for crew members to use open flames, despite it being a violation of safety requirements.
“It is absolutely tragic that Alex Olivia would still be alive today only if the defendants had put more value into basic safety rather than expediency,” commented United States Attorney Zachary Fardon.
According to Defense attorney William Walters, a sentencing hearing regarding restitution costs against Dennis Egan is going to take place next week. Dennis Egan, who is faced with the same restitution as Egan Marine is most likely going to appeal, as stated by Walters.