Lawsuit filed against KMCO following plant fire

CROSBY, Texas (FOX 26) — A worker injured in the fire at the KMCO chemical plant in the Crosby area is suing the company that owns the plant and is seeking more than $1 million in damages.

The lawsuit filed on Wednesday is believed to be the first submitted on behalf of a worker injured in Tuesday's fire at the KMCO facility in east Harris County.

Randy Villaloboz says in the lawsuit that he suffered severe injuries and mental anguish. He also claims KMCO failed to properly train employees or maintain a safe work environment.

A statement released by KMCO, LLC identified the employee who died in the fire at the company's Crosby-area plant and says that it would not release any additional information related to the two employees left in critical condition from the fire "out of respect for the families and their privacy."

KMCO identified the employee who died as James Earl Mangum. The company says he was fondly known at the plant as "Bubba".

“We are both heartbroken and inspired by the moving tributes we have seen about the life and character of our friend and colleague, Bubba Mangum," KMCO CEO John Foley said. "He was a beloved member of our KMCO team and a model ambassador to the surrounding community.  We grieve alongside his family and the community and ask all to join us in extending thoughts and on behalf of the two other members of our KMCO team who remain in intensive care at area hospitals."

KMCO is providing medical check-ups and grief support services for other employees.

The fire at the KMCO facility was extinguished after 4 p.m. Tuesday, but teams of first responders used water and foam on hot surfaces to prevent any flare-ups at the site. On Thursday, KMCO said any remaining hot spots were cool.

“We are very pleased to report that the remaining hotspots are now cool. The KMCO Crosby site is stable and it is safe to begin both our integrity inspections of the facility and the investigation of the cause,” said Keith Terhune, KMCO’s VP of Operations.

Drones are being used by KMCO in coordination with the Fire Marshal's Office and the fire department to make sure there are no more hot spots and all combustion is extinguished.

"All activities at the facility are focused on the collection and containment of the remaining fire water and on continued stabilization of the site.  The company has deployed water pumping equipment to collect water runoff and protect the water quality in the area," KMCO said in a statement on Thursday.

KMCO says the initial assessments have shown there are no tanks that are actively leaking.

The Environment Protection Agency has begun to monitor aerial and ground level air quality following the fire. The agency's equipment has not yet found any levels of any hazardous compounds in the air that would "prompt an order to shelter in place." 

KMCO says they have numberous air monitoring systems at the Crosby site and "deployed teams of mobile monitors to gather air samples in surrounding communities and downwind from the facility."

“Our mobile air monitors have been taking air samples around the clock and will continue to do so until we are certain that all systems are locked down and air tight,” Foley said.  “We will provide the data from all these samples to EPA and TCEQ for analysis.”

Operations at the east Harris County facility have been suspended indefinitely with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office leading the investigation into the fire.

"KMCO will remain vigilant in our air monitoring and rapid response until the site is completely stabilized,” said KMCO vice president of operations Keith Terhune. “We apologize to our neighbors for any discomfort or concerns they may have felt as a result of this incident.”

"We will work with authorities to investigate yesterday’s incident thoroughly to prevent it from ever happening again," added Foley. "And with the help of our dedicated team, we will continue our mission of transforming KMCO into a next-generation, best-practice operator that exceeds the expectations of our customers, employees, surrounding communities, regulators and the industry at large.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.