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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/02/26/MN36774.DTL www.sfgate.com Return to regular view Tosco Refinery Shutdown Urged Fourth victim dies as commission advises closure during inquiry Charlie Goodyear, Bernadette Tansey, Chronicle Staff Writers Friday, February 26, 1999 1999 San Francisco Chronicle URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/02/26/MN36774.DTL As the death toll from a flash fire at the Tosco refinery in Avon rose to four yesterday, Contra Costa County's Hazardous Materials Commission urged county supervisors to shut down the plant immediately. The death of Raynold Rodacker, 49, of Martinez came within an hour of the commission's 6-to-3 vote in favor of closing the refinery. Rodacker died at 5:40 p.m. at Doctors Medical Center, where he was being treated for severe burns over 65 percent of his body. His death leaves just one survivor among the five men scorched when a fireball enveloped a tower they were working on Tuesday. An outraged majority of the Hazardous Materials Commission recommended that Tosco operations be halted until county supervisors feel sure the refinery is safe. Commission member Mike Shimansky, who is also a Danville city councilman, made the motion for Tosco's immediate closure. Shimansky said he was ``fed up'' with the repeated loss of life at Tosco during a period when refinery officials have battled against new county safety regulations. ``I'm getting kind of scared,'' Shimansky said. ``Believe me, if something like this happened in Danville, there wouldn't be any more refineries in the area.'' Voting against the shutdown were two industry representatives on the commission and commission chairwoman Leslie Stewart. Jimmy Rodgers, a retiree who represents the Council of Industries, cautioned commissioners to wait for the initial report Tosco must submit today before acting hastily in the emotional aftermath of the deaths. ``I'm emotional about it today, too,'' Rodgers said. ``But I think it would be wise to see the evidence, see what happened, before we act.'' The commission's only power is to advise the Board of Supervisors, which will discuss the accident next week. The first man to die when fire swept over Tosco's crude oil distillation tower Tuesday was identified yesterday by the Contra Costa coroner's office as Ricardo Emmanuel Enriquez, 36, of Antioch. Enriquez, a contract employee for Interstate Scaffolding, was burned beyond recognition, delaying his formal identification. Enriquez was active in his church, Holy Rosary, where he served as a eucharistic minister and regularly attended Mass. ``He was a very quiet person, a very private person,'' said Jackie Hook, the church's pastoral associate. ``He had been married and divorced. He liked kids, and people liked him.'' Two other men died Wednesday from severe burns -- Rollin Blue, who also worked for the scaffolding company, and Ernie Pofahl, a longtime Tosco employee. A Livermore man, Steve Duncan, 48, remained hospitalized yesterday in critical condition with severe burns and broken bones. Services for Pofahl will be held at Eastside Church of Christ in Antioch at 10 a.m. tomorrow. The five were caught in a wave of fire from a pipeline carrying naphtha, a highly volatile substance which can ignite on contact with hot surfaces. Tosco officials have said only that the men were removing a worn section of the pipe, which was supposed to have been emptied of naphtha. The 133-foot distillation tower where the men were working was in operation at the time of the accident. It was the second fatal accident at Tosco's refinery near Martinez in two years. A 1997 explosion in the refinery's hydrocracker unit killed 41-year-old Michael Glanzman of Pittsburg. Commission member Stuart Shoults, a safety consultant, said Tosco's series of releases, fires and explosions is reaching ``an increasingly catastrophic level.'' ``We seem to be having event after event after event at Tosco,'' Shoults said. ``We don't seem to be having these problems at the other refineries.'' Stewart, the commission chairwoman, said the majority was overreacting with its unprecedented call for a refinery shutdown. Stewart urged her colleagues to consider the effect on Tosco workers and the state's petroleum supplies. Tosco spokeswoman Linda Saltzman said the refinery is ``committed to operating safely.'' Saltzman said the company is working diligently to discover the cause of the fire and to prevent another accident. Supervisor Gayle Uilkema said she wants to avoid putting hundreds of employees out of work. She said the board will have Tosco's 72-hour report when it considers the shutdown recommendation Tuesday. ``If there is a violation that rises to the level of making the refinery a public nuisance, I have no problem taking that course of action,'' Uilkema said. Supervisor Donna Gerber said the shutdown was already on her list of options. The Contra Costa County district attorney's office, which could file criminal charges if the evidence warrants, will receive reports from a flock of regulatory and investigative agencies. Investigators are now poring over Tosco's training records, X-rays of refinery pipelines, maintenance sheets, and other documents, said Lewis Pascalli, head of the county's hazardous materials unit. Pascalli said Tosco is cooperating fully. The California Occupational Safety and Health administration, one of the investigating agencies, has six months to complete its inquiry. Cal OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer said inspectors have not found any evidence of negligence or wrongdoing so far. The county prosecutor will determine whether criminal charges or civil penalties are warranted. Deputy District Attorney Lon Wixson said individual employees as well as the company could be charged. Representative George Miller, D- Martinez, will meet with county and company officials today and has called for a full investigation by the newly formed Federal Chemical Safety Board. 1999 San Francisco Chronicle Page A19

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