Douglas Oswald, a Plainfield, IL driver for Bulkmatic Transport Co. of Indiana, had just delivered a load of heptane, a highly flammable chemical used as a spray cement in tire building, to Titan Tire Corp. He was standing about 20 feet from the rear of the tanker truck when it blew.
According to the citation issued March 1 by the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Bureau, Titan willfully failed to set safety procedures for handling heptane deliveries and failed to develop an emergency response plan.
There were no locks attached to the loading mechanism, IOSH said. This allowed the heptane to spill unnoticed onto the ground when a hose failed, instead of being piped into the company's 30,000-gallon storage tank. About 2,000 gallons poured onto the ground over the course of an hour, fire investigators said.
Fire officials believe the spark that set off the fireball came from a passing car or a worker welding inside the plant nearby.
Pam Hunt, a spokeswoman for Titan International, Titan Tire's parent company in Quincy, Ill., told Associated Press it would have no comment on the citation.
The United Steelworkers of America, on strike against Titan Tire since May 1998, was expecting the citation, "but it brings us no joy," said USWA Local 164 president John Peno.
"We've been saying for months, for years, that Titan International Inc. is an outlaw corporation that does not obey the most basic workplace health and safety laws," Peno said.
"Sadly, we predicted someone would be killed in this plant if Titan did not change its says. Titan did not change and a man is dead," he said.