Peyton Trueblood, who was killed in an explosion
that occurred while working for the Panhandle
Heritage Foundation in the Texas drama production.
A year ago today, Peyton Trueblood of Tuscaloosa, Alabama died after an explosion in Palo Duro Canyon. The Randall County Sheriff’s Office reported that fireworks being stored for the musical drama, Texas, had malfunctioned and exploded near the amphitheater just before 6 p.m. Peyton had been working for the production as a stage manager for just 3 months. When she hired on with Panhandle Heritage Foundation, she wasn’t told that her job duties would require working with or even around ultra-dangerous fireworks. She wasn’t told that the Foundation, in an attempt to save money, decided to purchase sub-standard fireworks which had a history of premature detonation. She wasn’t told that her explosives training would constitute an hour of online training. She wasn’t told that the Foundation wouldn’t be providing a competent person to assure all safety precautions were followed. She wasn’t told she wouldn’t be provided fire retardant clothing when forced to work inside the storage magazines. She wasn’t told that the inventory process she was forced to engage in was not supervised or assessed properly. She wasn’t told that a written hazard communication program had not been developed or implemented. Finally, she wasn’t told that spark producing devices were permitted within 50 feet of the magazines, unnecessarily exposing her to fire and explosion hazards. The Foundation fraudulently induced Peyton Trueblood into an employment relationship by material misrepresentations, express and implied, about the true nature and ultra-hazardous nature of her job. This conduct is called “fraudulent inducement” and is illegal, civilly. Reckless or negligent violations of any federal safety law, which are likely to lead to serious injury or death, can be punished criminally.
From July 31, 2015 until August 3, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the accident. On January 28, 2016, that agency issued the following six serious citations against the Foundation for violation of 29 C.F.R. § 1910 and assessed fines totaling $42,000.00. The Foundation timely contested all charges and the case is still pending:
- 29 C.F.R. § 1910.109(B)(1): Explosives or blasting agents were stored, handled, and/or transported when such storage, handling, and transporting of such explosives or blasting agents constituted an undue hazard to life:
On July 31, 2015, at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation Inc., employees handled explosives in a manner that constituted a hazard to life.
- 29 C.F.R. 1910.109(c)(5)(vii): Smoking, matches, open flames, spark-producing devices, and firearms (except firearms carried by guards) were permitted inside of or within 50 feet of magazines:
On July 31, 2015, at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation Inc., spark producing devices were permitted within 50 feet of a magazine exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards.
- 29 C.F.R. § 1910.109(c)(5)(viii): Magazines were not in the charge of a competent person at all times and who shall be held responsible for the enforcement of all safety precautions:
On July 31, 2015, at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation failed to designate a competent person to ensure that all safety precautions were followed for employees handling explosive materials in magazines. This exposed employees to explosion and fire hazards.
- 29 C.F.R. § 1910.132(a): Protective equipment was not used when necessary whenever hazards capable of causing injury and impairment were encountered:
On July 31, 2015, at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation Inc., did not ensure employees performing inventory of pyrotechnics in a storage magazine wore fire retardant clothing and exposed them fire and explosion injuries.
- 29 C.F.R. § 1910.132(d)(1): The employer did not assess the workplace to determine if hazards were present, or were likely to be present, which necessitated the use of personal protective equipment:
On July 31, 2015, at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation Inc., did not assess the inventory process to determine the need for fire retardant clothing and exposed employees to explosion and fire hazards.
- 29 C.F.R. 1910.1200(e)(1): Employer had not developed or implemented a written hazard communication program included in the requirements outlined in 20 C.F.R. § 1910.1200(e)(1)(i) and (e)(1)(ii):
On July 31, 2015, at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation Inc., did not have a written hazard communication program. Employees were exposed to explosion and fire hazards while working with materials used in pyrotechnics.
On June 27, 2016, an audience member attending the musical drama was seriously injured by a malfunctioning firework. The female victim sustained neck burns and cuts.
On July 21, 2016, in an apparent attempt to boost sagging attendance, the Foundation’s lead pyrotechnical expert lied to KFDA News Reporter Shannon Smith when he claimed on camera that the Foundation had been “cleared of all OSHA fines and citations from last year’s explosion.” As shown in documents below, all charges are still pending, no citations have been dismissed, and the litigation is still pending prosecution. More troubling than the Foundation lie to the public, is Dennis Rice’s admission “we really are doing the same safety procedures we did last year . . . and have had no issues whatsoever.” The fact that Mr. Rice was the primary reason laws were violated which caused Peyton Trueblood’s death should cause some concern. Considering his propensity to lie to the public, it’s almost beyond belief that Rice is a member of law enforcement, working part time at the Randall County Sheriff’s Office and also moonlighting as Randall County’s Fire Marshall. Perhaps Mr. Rice is the reason the Randall County Sheriff’s Office did absolutely no criminal investigation to determine potentially “reckless” or “negligent” conduct of Foundation employees. Perhaps Mr. Rice is the reason that critical evidence was tampered with and removed from the explosion site prior to the arrival of the State Fire Marshall?
If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.