Demolition contractors sued over Killen plant collapse

Kentucky man has incurred $2.9M in medical bills
Posted at 8:37 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 13:49:13-05

CINCINNATI — A Grayson, Kentucky man - who lost both legs in the collapse of the Killen power plant last year - is accusing two demolition contractors of taking “extraordinary steps to weaken and de-stabilize” the structure so they could avoid the time and expense of a controlled demolition using explosives, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Adams County.

Travis Miller was working inside the plant’s 14-story boiler house when it collapsed on Dec. 9, 2020. His allegations are part of a 44-page lawsuit against 22 defendants affiliated with Adamo Demolition Company of Detroit and SCM Engineer Demolition Inc. of East China, Michigan.

The complaint alleges Miller’s injuries have led to more than $2.9 million in medical expenses so far, with an estimated $1.2 million in nursing care required in the future. The lawsuit says Miller’s injuries reduced his future earning capacity by more than $2.6 million.

“He tries his best to be positive, but look what he’s confronted with,” said Art Rabourn, Miller’s attorney. “His right leg is off, up to and including the hip. His left leg is off below the knee. He’s got a good family structure, but this is a man who was active before this happened. Now he is horribly, horribly limited for life.”

The WCPO 9 I-Team tried to reach Adamo and SCM, but neither has responded to questions about the lawsuit, which is the first to be filed since the collapse.

Here is a summary of the lawsuit’s allegations:

  • Adamo and SCM “deliberately and intentionally ignored industry custom and practice” by failing “to engage a structural engineer to monitor the progress of the demolition.”
  • Adamo and SCM “never prepared a detailed demolition plan that identified the precise location and nature of the cuts and burns to be made by Travis Miller and the other cutters and burners.”
  • Adamo and SCM failed to “prepare a detailed pre-implosion plan that located the precise location where the charges would be set.”
  • Adamo and SCM “intended that the boiler house fall in an uncontrolled collapse before implosion and knew with a substantial degree of certainty that the collapse of the structure was dangerous.”
  • Adamo and SCM “knew that the boiler house had twisted/bowed columns, was shifting and making unusual settling noises” but failed to consult an engineer about it or “add shoring, bracing or other means to stabilize the boiler house.”
  • Adamo and SCM “failed to take pictures of the cuts and burns made during the preparation and never shared the pictures with a structural engineer to determine if the cuts and burns were appropriate.”
  • Adamo and SCM “without explanation ‘lost’ the video that captured the collapse and events leading to the collapse. The loss was intentional and intended to prevent litigants and regulators from using the video to establish (defendants’) deliberate and intentional conduct.”

As the I-Team has previously reported, workers at the Killen plant were concerned about safety protocols prior to last year's collapse that injured Miller and killed two Kentucky men, Jamie Fitzgerald of Boyd County and Doug Gray of Greenup County.

“We intend to file a wrongful death complaint this week,” said Blake Fromang, a Florida attorney who represents the Fitzgerald family.

Former Adamo employee Labe Griffith told the I-Team in April that the project wasn’t properly supervised. Fitzgerald’s fiancée, Lora Conley, also told the I-Team that Fitzgerald was worried that supervisors were not looking after cuts that were intended to weaken the building’s support structure in advance of an explosive demolition.

“No one was inspecting the guys before they made these cuts, like it was supposed to, like it was in their handbook from Adamo,” Conley said. “I do know that because Jamie had made numerous comments about that.”

In May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed fines totaling $180,222 against Adamo, alleging the company failed to properly monitor the explosive demolition process at Killen. OSHA proposed $12,288 in fines against SCM for the same incident. Both companies are contesting the violations, according to OSHA records.

RELATED: Demolition company facing fines after power plant collapse that killed two, injured three
RELATED: OSHA proposes $194K in fines for Adams County power plant collapse

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