An Oklahoma judge will soon decide whether or not to seal multiple documents in a wrongful death lawsuit.
The suit stems from the September 2021 death of 40-year-old welder Joey Bonds. Bonds was hired by Firestone Trucking Inc. – a Minco, Okla.-based hazmat company specializing in the transport and handling of saltwater and liquid/gases – to repair a leak in one of their tanker trailers. While performing the repairs, the trailer exploded, instantly killing Bonds. Witnesses said the explosion “shook the whole town,” with some thinking it was an earthquake.
In the wake of the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for three “serious” violations, including not notifying a contractor of fire hazards found in equipment being repaired and not cleaning or ventilating the area where work was being done. The agency also fined the company $10,151.
According to an OSHA report, the trailer had carried 150 gallons of “oil/gas production water” the day prior to the repair. In the report, the company admitted to not cleaning the trailer before instructing Bonds to repair it.
A petition filed in the Grady County District Court in February 2022 claims the trucking company gave Bonds “affirmative representations about the trailers readiness” before beginning his work.
“The circumstances leading up to that explosion were not only foreseeable but created by Firestone,” the petition read.
In its response to the petition, Firestone Trucking denied concealing the condition of the trailer from Bonds. The company said that the “condition was open and obvious” and suggested that Bonds, or any other experienced welder, should have been able to notice the flammable material in the truck.
Joshua Poovey, an attorney representing Firestone Trucking, said his clients deny any wrongdoing.
“Our client, Firestone Trucking, is sympathetic to the Bonds family and grieves their loss as a result of this tragic accident,” Poovey told KWTV news. “Firestone denies the allegations raised against it. We will not comment further at this time due to the pending litigation.”
In August, Firestone and its insurer, Zurich American Insurance Co., asked the court to seal multiple documents in the case. Among them, the original petition and details from the OSHA report. The motion cites privacy concerns over sensitive information and contends the documents could influence potential jurors.
Those representing Bonds in the matter said the motion to seal is simply a means of concealing the truth.
“Plaintiff objects – strongly – to defendants efforts to ‘whitewash’ the public record, censor plaintiff’s pleadings and, in effect, ‘expunge’ defendant’s criminal actions,” they said in their response.
A Grady County judge will hear arguments for the motion to seal on Dec. 14. LL