• February 02, 2023

Jose Cruz-Salazar Killed, 2 Injured in Pipeline Accident in Pearsall, TX

UPDATE (September 8, 2023): Information released by OSHA identifies the worker killed in the accident as 45-year-old Jose Luis Cruz-Salazar. The OSHA summary, which currently lists the case as "open," lists at least one "serious" citation that appears to have been contested. The summary also lists a recommended penalty of $6,250. No further information can be confirmed at this time.

Pearsall, TX — February 1, 2023, one maintenance worker died and two others were hospitalized after a pipeline explosion in Pearsall.

According to authorities the incident happened around 12:30 p.m. at a pipeline site an hour outside of San Antonio. The specifics of the explosion's cause and circumstances haven't been released, but reports say three workers for Corpus Christi-based Nexus Integrity Management, a pipeline maintenance company, were injured in the blast.

Jose Cruz-Salazar Killed, 2 Injured in Pipeline Accident in Pearsall, TX

One of the workers died at the scene; two others were transported to area hospitals with unspecified injuries.

The incident remains under investigation by local authorities as well as state and federal regulators.

No further information is currently available.

Between OSHA and the Texas Railroad Commission sending investigators to that work site people might think clear answers will follow soon, but thorough investigations from government inspectors usually take some time. I've seen them stretch anywhere from 6 months to over a year, which often means that people forced to wait for badly-needed information may find themselves almost as in the dark as when they started—and just as confused about what to do next.

That can get a little complicated. A quick search shows that the victims' employer subscribes to worker's comp, which may lead some to assume they and their families will be taken care of. In reality, though, that system may only barely help them scrape by. Its benefits are capped as a percentage of the average weekly wage in Texas—a bad deal for many in and around the oil and gas industry, who often earn more than that average. That means the income they can even claim for benefits is reduced, after which they get a further-reduced portion of that. A percent of a percent of their normal income is often nowhere near enough to keep them afloat.

If investigators find those workers' employer is solely responsible for their injuries then despite the raw deal workers' comp provides it's pretty much their only recourse. However, there seem to be other details to iron out. For example, the workers were on another company's pipeline site when the explosion occurred; moreover, there's no telling what actions they were taking at the site. If investigators find the pipe or the parts to repair it were damaged or defective due to someone else's action (or inaction), then that party may bear some responsibility for what happened.

I know that's a lot, but the point I'm trying to make is that waiting for OSHA to ride in on a white horse and save the day isn't always the best idea. Moreover, workplace accidents like most other kinds tend to be more complicated than they might seem at first. Hopefully investigators' combined efforts uncover the whole truth of what happened and the people affected by that explosion get the answers and help they deserve.

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