Company cited in fatality

An Albuquerque plumbing company is in the midst of contesting a citation issued by the New Mexico Environment Department in connection with a fatal accident in March at the Portales Abengoa Bioenergy plant.

Donner Plumbing and Heating employee Juan Garcia, 32, was killed while doing contracting work.

After months of investigation, the state environment department issued a $2,500 citation to the Albuquerque company for "violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act," according to the citation report. The state agency found no fault on the part of Abengoa.

Garcia was killed when he was struck by a 5,000 pound motor while installing a 6-foot high unit that produces alcohol fuels, according to the report.

Donner Plumbing and Heating of Albuquerque is contesting a citation they received from the New Mexico Environment Department for a fatal accident at the Portales Abengoa Bioenergy plant in March. The incident was under investigation for five months.

"The Donner company's level and complexity of operations have grown over the years," the report said. "But this accident indicates that job planning, especially that part involving safety planning, has not."

Robert Genoway, acting bureau chief for OSHA, said as a result of Donner Plumbing contesting the citation, which was issued at the end of August, the environment department is conducting an administrative review of the investigation results.

"The case could go to hearing before the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission, if not resolved during the administrative review," Genoway said.

According to the report:

  • Donner Plumbing was at the Abengoa plant to remove and replace two large chiller units.
  • Garcia was the foreman on the project.

The report said Garcia and co-workers, Jesus Villa (plumber) and David Gutierrez (apprentice), began rigging the motor and turbine of one of the chillers for removal by positioning chain pulls between the motor and turbine. The report said that Garcia rigged the chain pulls further apart than usual.

"There were no real indicators to show that this approach to the rigging might not allow the lowering to be as controlled," the report read.

The report said Garcia struck the motor in one turbine with a hammer when it would not come loose after the bolts were removed.

Garcia had positioned himself to where he would not be beneath the chain pulls, according to the report, but the motor falling caused the chains to twist, causing an almost 90-degree twist and sending the motor into Garcia.

Donner Plumbing and Abengoa officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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