Second wrongful death lawsuit in asphalt explosion

Lawsuit: Mohawk Asphalt Employee Al Crowter was burned and fell from top of truck
The aftermath of an Oct. 17, 2016, explosion at Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions in Glenville is seen in this file photo.
The aftermath of an Oct. 17, 2016, explosion at Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions in Glenville is seen in this file photo.

GLENVILLE — The estate of a man who died after a 2016 explosion at a Glenville asphalt production facility has sued the owner of the facility and others over his wrongful death.

Betty J. Crowter, of Fulton County, filed a negligence lawsuit this week in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County seeking compensation for the injuries to, and death of, her son, Alfred J. Crowter, who was a Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions employee.

It is the second lawsuit to be filed in connection with the deadly blast. Karen Nichols, the widow of Mohawk Asphalt employee Joseph Nichols, filed a similar lawsuit in May. Her husband died from his injuries two days after the explosion.

The latest lawsuit names as defendants Mohawk Asphalt, parent companies Gorman Brothers and the Gorman Group, Cady Co., and Unifirst Corp., maker of the company uniform Crowter was wearing on Oct. 17, 2016, when the explosion occurred.

Investigators have determined the explosion happened as an asphalt-kerosene mixture was being loaded from a storage tank into a tanker-trailer. Crowter and Nichols were involved in the transfer, and Nichols was using a blowtorch to loosen a clog in the line when the explosion happened.

Crowter, 42, of Mayfield, who had worked for the company for about two years, died two weeks after the explosion at Westchester Medical Center from burns and other injuries he suffered when he fell from the top of the tanker-trailer, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit blames the explosion on “unprotected and inadequate storage tank lines that clogged,” as well as the use of an open flame blowtorch to break the clog.

The lawsuit, filed by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti of Niskayuna, doesn’t seek a specific damage figure. It says Betty Crowter incurred medical, hospital and funeral expenses on behalf of the estate due to the incident. The suit also seeks wrongful death compensation.

Frank O’Connor of Albany, the attorney for Mohawk Asphalt and Gorman, said Friday that because the matter was in litigation he would not comment.

The incident occurred at about 1:05 p.m. at the Mohawk Asphalt facility off Freemans Bridge Road. Crowter and Nichols were part of a crew loading a mixture of 50 percent kerosene and 50 percent asphalt into a tanker-trailer when the mixture became clogged in the transfer line. Nichols was directed to use a propane blowtorch to heat the line to loosen the clog when the mixture ignited and exploded.

Following an investigation of the incident, the U.S. Occupation Safety and Health Administration cited Mohawk Asphalt for two “serious” violations: not taking precautions against having sources of ignition where flammable vapors are present, and not having employees wear proper personally protective uniforms while handling hot asphalt. The company, in May 2017, paid an OSHA fine of $17,745 and had corrected the issues, according to OSHA.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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