Widow sues over engineer’s death in August Schenectady industrial explosion

Ambulances at the scene in August.

Ambulances at the scene in August.

TROY — The widow of a man killed in an August industrial explosion has sued the Schenectady company where the blast occurred and the owner of the site.

Court papers filed on behalf of Jolanta Krokos-Kapp of North Greenbush seek unspecified damages for the death of Joseph A. Kapp and for the suffering he experienced before dying.

The papers allege that Innovative Test Solutions and DJR Holdings LLC failed to maintain a safe working environment and that this resulted in Kapp’s being in harm’s way.

On the morning of Aug. 5, a high-pressure food treatment system was being tested at the ITS facility when an equipment failure resulted in a tank explosion that injured three people. Kapp was transported to Ellis Hospital, where he died. The two other victims suffered less-serious injuries.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an investigation later that day. A U.S. Department of Labor spokesman said Thursday that OSHA has six months to complete an investigation, and this one is still underway.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday by attorney Donald W. Boyajian in state Supreme Court, Rensselaer County, makes the following assertions and allegations:

  • ITS offered and performed crack and failure testing for clients developing industrial products at 551 Kings Road in Schenectady, a site owned by DJR.
  • Kapp was the sole member of Elmhurst Systems LLC and was in the process of developing a high-pressure vessel to be used in food processing; he retained the services of ITS to prepare it for sale to an end user.
  • Kapp was at the ITS facility Aug. 5 to observe testing of the vessel.
  • Kapp was allowed to be too close to the vessel and suffered grave physical injuries when it exploded; ITS and DJR knew the risks entailed and had a duty to provide a safe workspace.
  • ITS was negligent in design, assembly and testing of the vessel; in not adding guards, barriers or other protection for people in proximity to the testing; in failing to monitor the testing in progress; and in not warning Kapp about the risks and hazards that it knew or should have known existed.
  • The explosion and Kapp’s death were the result of the defendants’ negligence.
  • Kapp suffered extensive physical trauma, conscious pain, emotional shock and fear of his impending death before he died.
  • Kapp’s wife and children depended on him for support and have suffered economic and non-economic damages through his death.

Kapp, who was 67, held a doctoral degree in materials engineering and had had a long research career. He was known in Rensselaer County public affairs, serving briefly as mayor of the city of Rensselaer and for more than 20 years on the Hudson Valley Community College Board of Trustees, of which he was a vice chairman at the time of his death.

Shortly after the explosion, R. Scott Briody, CEO of Innovative Test Solutions, issued a statement expressing grief and condolences at the injuries and death earlier that day at ITS.

The law firm representing ITS and DJR reiterated this sentiment Thursday but said it could not comment further on the legal proceeding.

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