Tuesday, June 2, 2009

KBR faults media in coverage of electrocution issue

Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc. on Friday accused media outlets of using electrocution death statistics to fuel a "politically-driven campaign" against the company.

A statement released by KBR's interim president of government and infrastructure, William Bodie, objected to "false reports and innuendo" in a New York-based newspaper and other media outlets concerning electrical issues in Iraq, where the Houston-based firm holds more than $16 billion in government contracts for services at thousands of U.S.-controlled facilities. He said KBR remains committed to a "fact-based dialogue" on the electrocution issue.

Bodie, who called the deaths "truly tragic," denied responsibility in four electrocutions, including the Jan. 2, 2008, death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, of Shaler. The Green Beret died when a rooftop pump charged the water in his shower at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex near Baghdad.

Bodie contends that KBR also did not cause the 2004 electrocutions of Army Spc. Chase Whitham, 21, of Harrisburg, Ore., who died in a Mosul swimming pool; Army Spc. Marcos Nolasco, 34, of Chino, Calif., who died in a Bayji shower; or Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David Cedergren, 25, of South St. Paul, Minn., who died while showering in Iskandariyah.

The four are among 18 people electrocuted in Iraq since 2003, according to military casualty records.

Maseth's parents, Cheryl Harris of Cranberry and Douglas Maseth of Allison Park, sued KBR in federal court, alleging that the firm's shoddy work killed their son. Meanwhile, the military's ongoing probe into Maseth's death, labeled "negligent homicide" by an investigator for the Army Criminal Investigative Division, is under legal review.

Harris disputed Bodie's claims, insisting that evidence and facts gathered in the military investigation of her son's death and the family's federal lawsuit point to KBR's responsibility.

"If Mr. Bodie wants a fact-based dialogue on this issue ... he should tell KBR's lawyers to stop trying to prevent him from testifying in this case," she said.


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