Chemical leak kills DuPont La Porte employees

Tiffany Wade, Reporter

On Saturday November 15 at around four in the morning to six in the morning, a chemical leak killed four out of 320 workers and left one injured.

“Our thoughts and prayers are really with our families of the employees, and we want to make sure that we give them all the support they need in the best that we can do. I really have nothing else I can tell you at this time,” DuPont La Porte manager Randall Clements said.

The chemical was methyl mercaptan, which was used in the prop protection unit for insecticides, fungicides, and proteins for the plants. The chemical was said to be able to smell from about 40 miles away. The inhabitants nearby were not harmed, however the stench was unbearable. Methyl mercaptan is such an easily ignited chemical that if the tiniest bit of fire touched it, any nearby object or body would be completely contaminated, as the chemical is highly toxic. The chemical can cause irritation of the eyes and skin and, cause respiratory problems, and headaches and nausea, if not protected from properly.

“Pesticides are designed to kill things, so you’re talking about, by their nature, highly potent chemicals. If you get the fullest exposure, you don’t have a chance. It will kill you,” Elena Craft said. Craft is a toxicologist for the Environmental Defense Fund and has toured the plant.

Don Holmstrom led the team of seven investigators with the supervisor Johnnie Banks. The unit was barricaded for the investigations to begin at around eight in the morning. The investigation team said the valve failed around four a.m. in the crop protection unit, which is where the chemical is located and it took two hours to even contain the chemical.

The non-qualified medical personnel was not permitted to enter the area until they were informed that it was safe, because they had not been trained to use the proper personal protective equipment. The LaPorte firefighters weren’t even allowed to enter the premises until hours after the workers had died. Their clothing and breathing equipment was not enough protection for inhalation or skin contact from the high levels of the chemical. However, the scene was finally deemed safe to enter just before noon and the four workers were confirmed in their current reported states by Medical Examiner around two p.m. The worker who was injured was placed in a hospital for further observations.

Families were not informed of their loved ones until after they were confirmed by the Medical Examiner fro the safety of the family members. Among the four workers in the midst of the tragedy were Wade Baker, Gilbert Tisnado, his brother Robert Tisnado, and Crystle Wise. The injured worker’s name is unknown.

At 53 and after being recently hired for DuPont, Crystle Wise was the first one to be in trouble. Robert Tisnado died right after her. He was 39 and worked for DuPont for seven years. He was responding to Crystle’s call for help when he passed. Wade followed after Robert and died. He was a 60-year-old manager from LaPorte and a highly experienced man. Gilbert, or Gibby, Tisnado was 48 and was said to have had a gas mask, however he still ended up passing away from the gas.

“In a chemical plant, there’s always steam and air blowing. So you’re not worried about it. It’s natural… That’s the nature of the beast, and that’s why there are so many safety precautions,” Gilbert Tisnado, the brothers’ father, said.

The families of the workers have started making funeral plans. The lives of these workers may have been cut short but they will always be remembered as the four brave DuPont workers.