Widow sues company over husband’s death

Claim contractor failed to ensure safety

A year after the Phillips 66 pipeline explosion that rocked the Paradis community in February of 2017, Phillips 66 and the widow of the pipeline employee killed in the accident filed lawsuits in state District Court in Thibodaux against Blanchard Contractors.

Both suits allege that while work was underway at the Phillips 66 pump station, “an employee of Blanchard improperly opened one or more valves associated with the pipeline equipment” without ensuring they were properly aligned, causing the release of natural gas liquid that immediately ignited and started a large fire.

They each claim Blanchard was negligent in providing proper training to the employees assigned to perform the work, failed to provide employees who were properly qualified to ensure the work be done safely and failed to perform adequate inspections of its employees’ work practices.

Phillips 66 is suing for unspecified damages, claiming that as a result of the fire, all of the physical assets and equipment at the site were destroyed. It also states that the company will continue to incur significant losses and damages, including costs of emergency response, cleaning, the building of temporary re-routing facilities and the replacement and rebuilding of lost equipment.

Mandy Helms, widow of former Phillips 66 employee Josh Helms who was killed in the explosion, is suing individually and on behalf of her daughter.

Helms also is suing for unspecified damages, noting her husband’s death resulted in severe grief and mental pain, loss of support and income, and the loss of her husband’s guidance and companionship for their daughter.

A separate lawsuit was filed in St. Charles Parish by Advanced Piping Solutions, with Phillips 66 Pipeline LLC, Phillips 66 company and Blanchard Contractors Inc. listed as defendants.

In the civil lawsuit, filed on Feb. 9, Advanced Piping Solutions is seeking nearly $200,000 in damages for equipment destroyed in the accident. It sites negligence on the part of the defendants in that they failed to ensure the valve in question could be safely opened without causing a fire.

The company is also seeking about $65,000 in rental payments from Phillips 66 representing 21 days of rental use of the plaintiff’s equipment.

Five people were injured after the explosion on Feb. 9 of last year.

Helms was the sixth and final worker on site during the incident. His body was recovered days after the explosion — he was unaccounted for in the immediate wake of the fire, as responders were not able to access the area closest to the fire to search for him.

The explosion created a fire that burned for about four days before responders were able to extinguish the fire at Paradis Pipeline Station. A temporary evacuation was called for residents of six homes in the area.

Helms had joined Phillips 66 in November of 2016, just a few months before the explosion, and had been working as a pipeliner for eight years.

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