Esso and its contractor charged over Fawley refinery death


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The Independent Online

Esso and one of its contractors are to be prosecuted over the death of a sailor at one of Europe's largest oil refineries, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said today.

Honduran Juan Antonio Quintanilla Romero, 40, was working on the fuel tanker MV Castillo de Monterreal which had docked at the refinery in Fawley, near Southampton, when he died on August 30 2008.

A large fuel pipe collapsed on him after the jib from which it was suspended gave way as a connector bolt, which was severely corroded, failed, the CPS said.

Both Esso Petroleum Company Limited, which owns the refinery and the jib that collapsed, and Dorset-based Austin & McLean Limited, which was hired by Esso to undertake maintenance on the jib, have now been charged following a Hampshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive investigation.

Austin & McLean is accused of gross negligence manslaughter, relating to an alleged gross breach of its duty of care towards Mr Romero and also an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Esso has been charged with an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 plus charges under Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Gaon Hart, senior crown advocate in the Special Crime team at the CPS, said: "I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence resulting from the investigation to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is required in the public interest. Those are the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors."

Representatives of Esso and Austin & McLean will appear at Southampton Magistrates' Court on September 5.

An Esso spokesman said in a statement that the company was disappointed by the CPS decision to prosecute and it would defend itself against the charges.

"We are saddened that the death of Mr Juan Quintanilla Romero occurred on an oil tanker berthed at Esso's Fawley refinery.

"We have cooperated fully with the investigation for over three years. We have a detailed understanding of the facts and circumstances pertaining to the incident and do not believe that the health and safety regulatory charges are justified.

"Esso places the highest possible priority on safety. Our safety performance remains strong in the industry and we are fully committed to safe operations at our sites."