Pesticide Accident in Amarillo, TX Kills Felipe, Johnnie, Josue, Yasmeen Balderas
Amarillo, TX -- On January 2, 2017, siblings Felipe, Johnnie, Josue, and Yasmeen Balderas were killed, others hurt in a poisonous pesticide accident.
Details on this accident are still sparse at this time. Amarillo authorities say that the incident occurred around 5:00 a.m. at 1301 Carolyn Street.
Reports currently indicate that a man attempted to apply the pesticide Aluminum Phosphide underneath his mobile home. Authorities say that he attempted to wash the pesticide from beneath his home, and the mixture with water produced phosphine, a poisonous byproduct, that filled the home.
As a result of this incident, Felipe, Johnnie, Josue, and Yasmeen, ages 7, 9, 11, and 17 respectively, sustained fatal respiratory injuries. One of them reportedly died at the scene, while the other three died later on in the hospital. Reports also say that four other children, the father, and the mother were also injured. The mother was said to be critical.
Reports also indicate that at least 10 responding emergency personnel also sustained injuries from inhaling the gas.
At this time, reports indicate that the man who used the pesticide was not licensed to use it. The EPA classifies Aluminum Phosphide as Toxicity Category I, its most dangerous category. Due to this, people need a license to sell and use this chemical. It seems the man got this chemical through the black market, but specifics aren't entirely clear.
Authorities have not released any additional information at this time. Investigations are ongoing.
Map of the Area
This is still a developing story and not all of the facts are known at this time, but the details that have been reported definitely indicate that someone behaved negligently somewhere in the chain of events leading to the incident. After all, tightly regulated chemical pesticides don't just find their way into unlicensed hands but for a license holder breaking the law or some other illicit conduct.
Many people hear about a story like this and are quick to blame whoever put the pesticide under the house and tried to wash it off. That may be a prudent analysis if we were talking about a product that everyone knew was dangerous if used a certain way or something other than a tightly regulated chemical compound. However, it's difficult for me to accept that the person who applied this chemical compound to his own house knew enough about a chemical that he had likely never before encountered to have the special knowledge that his conduct could produce this kind of harm. In other words, he probably didn't know any better.
We as a society acknowledge that some products are so dangerous that people need special training in their use in order to buy, sell, and use these products. The pesticide, aluminum phosphide that is suspected to have been used in this case is one example of such a product. Its purpose is to kill vermin, such as mice, rats, and even prairie dogs. You can't just pick up aluminum phosphide down at Lowe's or Home Depot, you need a special license to buy it. According to information provided by news sources, no one in this family had a license, which means whoever applied this pesticide most likely bought it off the black market and just didn't know what he was getting himself into. The question then becomes who sold it to them? At some point there had to be a licensed seller who illegally sold this product to someone. Under those circumstances, we're dealing with someone who knows the laws regarding the sale of that substance. By selling Aluminum Phosphide to an unlicensed party, that person blatantly broke the law.
Here's an analogy to expand on this reasoning. Let's say I'm a Federal Firearms Licensee (i.e. a licensed gun seller or a gun store) who has all of the proper licenses and bought all of my firearms through legal means. Now let's say I decide to sell my guns out of the back of my truck rather than through my storefront. In doing so, I bypass all of the normal background checks required by federal law. As such, I could be selling my guns to Joe Citizen who has the lawful right to own a gun or I may selling said weapons to a member ISIS, someone who has been adjudicated mentally defective, a drug dealer, etc. As you can imagine, if I sell my guns on the black market, the law holds that I am liable for any harm that may be caused by that weapon. The same holds true for a someone licensed to traffic in dangerous chemicals. Sell them to the right people in the right way and you're on the right side of the law. Sell them to people outside of the lawful channels and you've now colored so far outside the lines that you assume responsibility for misconduct that you otherwise would not be liable for.
Dangerous chemicals, as this accident clearly shows, are regulated for a reason. When unlicensed or untrained people use a dangerous substance, people can be seriously hurt or killed. It is the responsibility of licensed parties to do their part and ensure these regulated chemicals are not used recklessly. If somebody breaks the law by giving these chemicals to an unlicensed individual, they need to be held accountable for their actions. Whether or not the authorities end up prosecuting criminal wrong-doing, the civil justice system still has the means to hold accountable, such as the person who allowed this chemical to be sold to laymen.
At the end of the day, there are 4 children who were killed by a chemical that no one in their family should have ever been able to get their hands on. Somewhere out there in the shadows is a person who had a duty to ensure that this chemical never fell into the wrong hands. That person made their money; this family lost their children. Justice demands that the person who allowed these chemicals to fall into the wrong hands be held accountable for their role in this horrific event.
--Grossman Law Offices