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Worker who lost both legs in plant collapse sues demolition contractors

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 2:07 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2021 at 3:29 PM EST
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ADAMS COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - A worker who traumatically lost both of his legs in the deadly collapse at a southern Ohio power plant last year sued two contractors and several of their affiliates this week.

A 14-story boiler house collapsed unexpectedly at the Killen Power Generation Station off U.S. 52 near Manchester in Adams County the morning of Dec. 9, 2020.

The facility had closed in 2018, and Travis Miller of Grayson, Kentucky was one of five men working inside the boiler house when it collapsed during demolition.

His lawsuit accuses two Michigan companies, Adamo Demolition Company in Detroit and SCM Engineer Demolition Inc. of East China and several of their affiliates, of taking “extraordinary steps to weaken and de-stabilize” the structure to save time and money- and then destroying the evidence to thwart his case.

“The memories of the collapse and his impending death will forever cause Travis Miller to suffer extreme emotional distress,” his lawsuit states. “Travis Miller now lacks the ability to care for himself and will never resume his chosen profession and earn the livelihood he previously enjoyed.”

Federal workplace regulators say steel beams fell on and killed two workers hired to demolish the facility – a laborer cutting steel and a truck driver preparing to move the scrap metal off-site.

Two Kentucky men died: Jamie Fitzgerald of Ashland and Clyde “Doug” Gray of Greenup.

Miller, Fitzgerald and Gray were all trapped, according to the lawsuit. It took crews days to find Gray’s remains and a month to find Fitzgerald’s.

Miller and two other workers who were hurt were rescued the day of the collapse.

Authorities said at the time those three suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were hospitalized.

Miller was the most seriously hurt of the workers who survived. He was flown to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

So far, he has incurred more than $2.9 million in expenses from the hospital, medical care and medication and he faces more than $1.1 million in future nursing care expenses, the lawsuit states.

It also alleges Miller’s future earning capacity was cut down by more than $2.6 million.

A second lawsuit will be filed this week on behalf of one of the men who died, Fitzgerald, a Florida attorney who is handling that litigation, Blake Fromang of Tampa, told FOX19 NOW on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated and cited The Adamo Group and SCM Engineer Demolition Inc.

OSHA said in a news release earlier this year they cited both companies for multiple safety violations on the demolition project, including violations of the general duty clause and failing to inspect the site regularly to detect potential hazards resulting from the demolition process, such as weakened or deteriorated floors, walls and loosened material.

OSHA also determined that the companies allowed employees to continue working under hazardous conditions without adding shoring, bracing, or other means to steady the structure and failed to train them on identifying potential hazards.

“Some of the most dangerous construction projects are those that involve demolishing buildings,” said OSHA Area Director Kenneth Montgomery in Cincinnati said in a May statement.

“This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer protected their workers with proper planning, training and appropriate personal protective equipment and by complying with OSHA standards.”

OSHA proposed penalties of $181,724 to Adamo and SCM Engineering faces penalties of $12,288 for three serious violations, federal records show.

Miller’s lawsuit notes those alleged errors and says that “as a result of the Defendants’ intentional and negligent acts...(he) has become a double amputee and suffered other extreme debilitating physical injuries...”

His suit also claims “spoliation of evidence against all defendants,” saying they “knew that the boiler house was on the verge of imminent collapse and that a collapse would cause injuries. Defendants knew litigation was probable.

“Prior to the collapse, Defendants Alamo maintained a sophisticated video recording system that recorded the demolition,” court records state.

“The recording system permitted Defendants Adamo’s employees to view the demolition, including the work being performed in the boiler house, from the on-site trailer and from corporate headquarters. The recording system recorded the collapse and the events preceding the collapse.”

The defendants “intentionally destroyed the recordings for the specific purpose of disrupting or negatively affecting ... Miller’s case,” the lawsuit alleges.

As a result, Miller’s case and the ability to prove his case may have been irreparably disrupted or destroyed or damaged, the suit states.

His lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in exemplary and punitive damages, saying the companies “demonstrated malice, ill will, recklessness, willfully and wanton misconduct and/or a total disregard for the rights and safety of (Miller), which caused substantial harm.”

The suit also says the companies’ behavior “should be made an example of and discouraged so that the same wrongful conduct does not happen to someone else.”

Miller’s lawsuit alleges the companies failed in their duties in many ways such as:

  • Properly demolish/implode the boiler house in a safe manner
  • Hire or consult with a structural engineer for confirmation the boiler house remained stable
  • Determine the type and location of cuts that should be made to safely weaken the structure
  • Hire or consult a structural engineer to confirm the boiler house was stable while Miller worked inside
  • Know the proximity of workers, including Miller, and others to the site while cuts were being made and the boiler house was being weakened
  • Prepare a detailed implosion/demolition plan that identified the location of the cuts and burns to be made
  • Monitor the condition of the boiler and use the necessary equipment
  • Properly establish a safe clear distance and safety perimeter while the boiler house was being prepared for demolition
  • Warn that the boiler house was in a “dangerously unsafe condition while it was being weakened for demolition by use of explosives.”

The Adamo Group and SCM Engineer Demolition are both are fighting the OSHA citations and fines.

FOX19 NOW reached out to the companies for comment on the lawsuit.

A woman who answered the phone at The Adamo Group Wednesday referred requests for comment about the lawsuit to “our attorney,” and then immediately hung up without providing a contact.

FOX19 NOW reached out again, this time in writing, to the company. We also contacted a former spokesman to see if he could comment on Adamo’s behalf.

The Adamo Group released the following statement through a spokesman in May:

“The Company has received the citations and is in the process of reviewing them. The Company fully cooperated with OSHA at all times in the post-accident inspection of this very unfortunate incident.

“Adamo does not agree with the citations and has contested that there was a violation and will be communicating with OSHA regarding an informal resolution of the citations. We do not believe it is appropriate for anyone to discuss the citations while that process is proceeding.

“Finally, the Company was at all times and continues to be committed to the safety and health of its employees and other persons at this project.”

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