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Victims’ families: Keep plant closed

January 19, 2011
By NANCY TULLIS, Special to the Herald-Star

NEW CUMBERLAND - Family members of workers who died as the result of the Dec. 9 explosion and fire at AL Solutions Inc. and the wife of a worker killed previously when the plant was known as Jamegy Inc. were emotional Tuesday in pleading with Mayor Joe Sargent and council members to not let the plant reopen.

Brothers Jeffrey Scott and James Fish of New Cumberland died in the explosion Dec. 9. Steven Swain of Weirton suffered severe burns and died Dec. 13. Family and friends of the workers filled the council chambers Tuesday.

"I am also speaking for the Shields and all the families," said Beverly McAbee, widow of Mark McAbee who was killed at Jamegy Inc. in 2006. Robert Shields Jr. died in an explosion there in 1995. "This has to stop," she said. "It's just heartbreaking. This all just tears everything open for the families again."

Members of the Fish family told council that every time sirens go off in the city, they all call one another to make sure remaining family members are OK. Holly Fish, a sister-in-law, said Scott and James "will never grow old with us," nor "ever hold my children again."

"Our family will never be the same," she continued. She asked council to "not just concern yourselves with the tax revenue," and to do whatever possible to keep the plant from continuing to operate in the city. "I don't think we're jumping to conclusions when five young men are dead," she said.

Ursula Williams-Greenwood, president of a citizens' group To Honor, To Remember Community Action Committee, told the council the group has "serious concerns" about AL Solutions plant officials' intent to reopen the plant.

Greenwood also cited concerns about air quality in the area and if any studies were being done such as those done in the East Liverpool area. She said BP shut down its offshore oil rig after the explosion last year in the Gulf that brought public outcry, and the rigs "were not in the middle of the city, near homes or Little League fields."

She said the group is concerned for the plant workers and their safety and for the community at large. She said the explosion caused bolts and pieces of machinery to become shrapnel that hurled into the South Chestnut Street neighborhood.

Greenwood said had the explosion occurred during the summer months, there would have been families outside at the nearby Little League field and children riding bicycles. The explosion created enough force that a plastic garbage can flying through the air dented the side of a car, she said.

Sargent said council was not prepared for any responses to the group, but would discus the community's concern at upcoming council work sessions.

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