Darrell Allen is suing Calumet Specialty Products Partners for unspecified damages following an asphalt tanker explosion that covered him in liquid asphalt.
According to court documents filed in June of 2016, Allen was a truck driver for Kimrad Transport tasked in April of 2015 with filling his tanker trailer with liquid asphalt at Calumet’s Shreveport refinery then delivering the load back in Texas. The lawsuit alleges that Darrell’s trailer was overloaded at the Calumet facility by over 3,000 pounds of liquid asphalt which then needed to be off-loaded back into Calumet’s tanks. A Calumet employee attached a hose to Darrell’s truck to off-load the asphalt and had Darrell stand on his truck to look into the trailer. Tragically, the hose used by the Calumet employee to offload the excess asphalt from the overfilled truck was not properly cleaned and contained water. The water in the hose turned to vapor which ignited an explosion inside Darrell’s tanker. The explosion blew Allen off his trailer and onto the ground as 350° liquid asphalt completely covered him from head to toe and pooled up around him. It’s a miracle he survived.
“He literally has second and third degree burns over 90 to 95 percent of his body,” Allen’s lawyer Charla Aldous said to KXII News 12. “No use of his hands. He’s got contractures on his hands. He can’t close his eyes; they have to physically close his eyes. It’s just… it’s horrible.”
A similar lawsuit was brought against Calumet back in 1999 when another truck driver, Melvin Suell, was injured while helping to offload asphalt from an overloaded truck, when an explosion covered him in liquid asphalt. While his injuries weren’t as severe as Allen’s, Calumet’s Plant Safety Director Grady Lee testified under oath that the company’s policy did not allow truck drivers to assist in offloading hot liquid asphalt because of the dangers involved in the process.
This isn’t the first safety concern brought against the Shreveport, LA-based refinery. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), Calumet was cited for 22 alleged serious violations in 2010, and 1 alleged willful violation, 7 alleged serious violations, and 1 alleged repeat violation of federal health and safety regulations in 2007. The penalties from the 31 alleged violations total over $295,000.
“We want to insure that the message gets out to the extent that we can that companies like Calumet need to be really careful and have rules and policies in place that their employees know what they should and should not do so god forbid this does not happen to another person,” Aldous said to KXII News 12.
According to Aldous, Allen’s medical bills already total more than $1 million. Going forward, Allen faces a lifetime of surgeries and will also need 24/7 care for the remainder of his life, neither of which the family can currently afford. Allen spent over three months in intensive care at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport before returning home to Denison to recover under his wife’s care.