Maintenance records reveal problems prior to deadly plant blast

by: Tom Regan Updated:

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ROCKMART, Ga. - Documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News show problems years ago with a machine that killed a plant worker in Rockmart when it exploded last month.

The worker, Elaine Davidson, 56, died when a pressure testing machine called an autoclave blew up at the Meggett Polymers and Composites plant on Oct. 31.

The force blew out the door of the autoclave, and caused traumatic injuries to Davidson, who later died at Polk Medical Center.

Maintenance records from 2008 and 2010 indicate problems with the autoclave door.

"We need five steel or alum rods for the autoclave unit," the 2008 request said.

In 2010, a supervisor requested a hydraulic jack be taken to the quality assurance lab to assist opening an autoclave door again. An urgent maintenance request came in 2011.

"A request to fix the door, which is not locking completely. A safety issue. This condition could cause the unit to blowout. Danger. Do not operate, needs lock out tag immediately," the request said.

The victim's son, Tytus McBryde, saw the documents for the first time and told Channel 2's Tom Regan that the information raised questions on whether the accident could have been prevented.

"It pretty much says it there. If there was a danger concern, a safety concern, my personal opinion is that it should have been addressed," McBryde said.

Davidson, a mother and grandmother, worked in a variety of jobs at Meggitt over a 37-year career. Her last job was as a quality insurance  inspector, which involved testing rubber raw material in the autoclave to determine durability for use in the fabrication of aircraft fuel tanks.

Her son said she expressed concerns about using the autoclave.

"She did mention it a few times. The work environment, the safety of opening the door," McBryde said.

Regan contacted Meggitt and received an email stating any specific questions about the investigation should be directed to OSHA, the federal agency investigating the accident, or the state fire marshal.

The statement went on to say that Meggitt wants to determine as quickly as possible "why this tragic accident happened. Accordingly, we are cooperating fully with the independent investigation led by OSHA and the Georgia Fire Marshal's Office pressure vessel specialists. We are immediately turning over all available information about the accident and the past operations and maintenance of the autoclave. On Friday, OSHA, the state and Meggitt jointly shipped components of the autoclave to an independent lab for forensic engineering testing."

The victim's son said their family is eager for answers.

"She's given everything to the mill in 37 years. I must feel at the end of the day, she went to work with good faith on the chances of coming home. All we want is the truth, and to know what really happened," McBryde said.



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