• February 09, 2017

William Rolls, Jody Gooch, Sedrick Stallworth Killed in DeRidder, LA, Paper Mill Explosion Accident

DeRidder, LA -- February 08, 2017, William Rolls, Jody Gooch, and Sedrick Stallworth died, others hurt following an explosion accident at a paper mill.

Beauregard County officials investigated the fatal accident at around 11:00 a.m. at the DeRidder Paper Mill off of Ronald Reagan Highway.

According to preliminary investigations, 32-year-old Rolls, 40-year-old Gooch, and 42-year-old Stallworth were contractors hired to conduct maintenance work on machinery in the mill. It was part of annual repair work that is routinely done at the paper mill.

For reasons that have yet to be determined, a tank on which they were working somehow combusted, and an explosion occurred.

As a result of the explosion, all three men were killed. Reports say that six people had minor injuries and have already been released from the hospital. One person's injuries were more serious, and they remain under care.

Investigators are still trying to determine what sparked the explosion. They have not reported any additional details at this time.

Map of the Area


From a legal perspective, I think there are two likely scenarios for what happens in the aftermath of this accident. As more facts come out, it will become apparent which one is correct.

The first possibility is that we have three contractors who were working on some piping. They are not employees of the paper mill, but contracted to do a specific job. Somehow, their work sparks the explosion and kills the three contractors. If this is the case, then any compensation for the victims' families would be obtained through the worker's comp. system. The vast majority of work injuries in Louisiana are covered by workers' compensation.

The second scenario would be if there was some sort of hazardous conditions on the paper mill property that led to the accident and that the contractors were not made aware of. Say, there were faulty electrical outlets they shouldn't use or maybe flammable residue that was supposed to be cleaned from the equipment was left, contributing to the accident. If an accident occurs because of an existing condition like this, and it kills the contractors, then the paper mill could be held liable. Workers' compensation doesn't apply because it is not their employer or co-workers who caused the injury, but someone from outside their company.

Without knowing more details, these two explanations are merely hypothetical. There are a lot of different things that could have caused this accident, so who would or wouldn't be liable is still up in the air at this time. The point I'm trying to make is that when it comes to accidents on the job, things can become very complicated very quickly. In my experience, talking to hundreds of families who lost a loved one on the job, after the grief of losing a loved one, the impotence of not knowing what to do next is one of the most frustrating parts of fatal work accidents.

--Grossman Law Offices


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