Posted On: February 17, 2009

Three Chicago Workers Injured in Slag Explosion at ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor East Plant

A slag explosion in ArcelorMittal’s East Chicago plant injured three contract workers last Friday. According to a factory representative at the Indiana Harbor East plant, the accident was the result of an eruption at the factory’s slag processor at the No. 7 blast furnace. One of the injured workers was taken to a local medical facility while the two others were airlifted to a Chicago hospital burn unit. Nick Dvorscak, assistant chief of the East Chicago Fire Department, reported that the fire was put out by the time his crew arrived to the scene. Dvorscak said that one worker suffered from severe burns while another was hit with a piece of shrapnel. The identities and conditions of the injured workers have not been released.

President of United Steelworkers Local 1010 Mike Hargrove reports that the union is participating in an investigation of the incident. Hargrove says that the union involved itself in the investigation in an attempt to avoid similar instances in the future. The union represents the plant’s hourly workers and not the contractors that were injured in the explosion. The injured contract workers are employed by subcontractors for Lafarge Slag which uses the waste by-product material to make concrete. Lafarge officials were unable to be reached regarding the explosion.

Posted On: February 13, 2009

Buffalo, NY, Airplane Crash Leaves 50 Dead

Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crashed into a home just north of Buffalo last night killing all 49 airline passengers and one person in the home. It was the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the United States since 2006. Firefighters worked through the night to extinguish flames which reportedly reached up to 100 feet. The 74 seat airplane, operated by Colgan Air, was preparing to land at Buffalo Niagra International Airport en route from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. According to eyewitnesses, the whole sky lit up orange just prior to the aircraft diving directly into a house. One person inside the house was killed while two others were able to narrowly escape. Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said there was no indication of terrorism or foul play surrounding the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Buffalo early this morning. The task of retrieving and identifying victims is not yet underway as the area surrounding the plane crash is still smoldering.

The plane, a Bombadier Dash 8 Q-400 twin engine turboprop, was manufactured at Bombadier’s Toronto facility. Two airlines had stopped flying similar turboprop planes in icy climates due to the aircraft's poor record in icy conditions. Both American Eagle and Comair halted cold weather use of the planes out of safety concerns. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane's crew repoprted significant icy buildup on the wings just prior to the crash. At least two other pilots reported icy wings on their aircrafts. Additionally, use of the Dash 8 Q-400 planes was permanently halted by Scandinavian Airline Systems in the fall of 2007 after three crashes occurred within a seven week period. A preliminary report from one of those accidents indicated that the Q-400 crash landed after a piece of rubber was stuck in the landing gear. If a manufacturing defect contributed to the plane crash, Bombadier may be liable for the devastating airplpane accident. Colgan Air’s accident response team is working to confirm the identities of those on the aircraft.

Posted On: February 12, 2009

Chicago Worker Killed in Northwest Side Factory

A Chicago area man was killed Tuesday night when he was crushed by a machine in an envelope factory on the city’s Northwest Side. Hiep Vu, a 54 year old resident of Melrose Park, IL, was pronounced dead at 8:46 p.m. by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. The police reportedly received a call around 7:50 p.m. from Cenveo Inc., a facility located at 3001 N. Rockwell St. By the time police arrived to the scene of the accident, the Chicago Fire Department was already in the process of transporting Vu to Chicago’s Advocate Illinois Medical Center.

According to reports, Vu’s co-workers became concerned when they did not see him stationed at the machine where he was working. The co-workers reportedly walked over to take a closer look at which point they noticed that Vu was stuck in the rollers of the heavy machine. Co-workers were somehow able to extricate Vu from the machine before the police arrived. Information regarding the type of machine that Vu was working on is not readily available. Police do not suspect any foul play in the death. The workplace accident is being investigated by Grand Central Area detectives. If the machine malfunction was the result of negligent manufacturing, there may be a products liability action available to the victim’s family in addition to a potential worker’s compensation claim.

Posted On: February 9, 2009

Palatine, IL, YMCA Swim Instructor Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Names Chicago YMCA as Defendant

A civil lawsuit filed in Chicago’s Richard J. Daley Center today relating to the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls by an Inverness, IL, swim instructor has named the YMCA as a defendant as reported by the Daily Herald and ABC.The accused swim instructor, Kevin Skowron, already faces criminal charges of predatory sexual assault and aggravated sexual abuse for his involvement with five girls between the ages of four and nine. The civil lawsuit alleges that the YMCA allowed for the continued employment of Skowron despite the fact that the outfit was aware of the prior sexual misconduct allegations levied against the instructor. Joseph G. Klest, lawyer for the Jane Doe Plaintiff, says that the lawsuit should send a clear message to institutional entities that allegations of employee sexual misconduct must be taken very seriously. The YMCA could be held liable for significant civil damages in continuing to employ Skowron.

The civil lawsuit comes on the heels of a new set of criminal charges against Skowron. According to the Cook County State’s Attorney Office, the former swim instructor was charged with predatory sexual assault and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse on Thursday January 22nd. Skowron already faces similar charges filed on November 24, 2008, for alleged inappropriate contact with a 7 year-old girl. According to a YMCA spokesperson, Skowron remained employed while the incidents were being investigated. The agency fired Skowron on November 24, 2008, the same day the initial charges were filed. Five young girls in total have now made allegations against Skowron.

Attorney Klest discusses the lawsuit on ABC news:

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