On January 2, 2008, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth was electrocuted while taking a shower at the Legion Security Forces Building in Baghdad. Press reports have indicated that contractor KBR ignored repeated warnings about the unsafe wiring.
In memo to House Oversight Committee this week, Pentagon Inspector General Gordon Heddell claimed there was “no credible evidence” that either KBR or the DOD knew about the hazards beforehand. Information uncovered by the Committee, however, contradicts Heddell.
In a Committee hearing today, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a work order from July 8, 2007 –- months before Maseth’s death — in which Sergeant Justin Hummer, the previous occupant of the room, reported to KBR:
Pipes have voltage. Get shocked in shower.
Furthermore, in sworn testimony on June 6, 2008, Hummer said he was shocked at least four times in the shower between June and October 2007. In each case, KBR personnel tried to fix the hazard. Today, the Pentagon IG admitted he was wrong to claim KBR was not aware of the electrical danger:
WAXMAN: This seems to be credible evidence that KBR was aware of this hazard last July.
HEDDELL: I do agree with you, Mr. Chairman.
Waxman showed Heddell another document of “task orders” from the Pentagon “warning that Sgt. Hummer gets shocked in the shower.” Heddell quickly admitted that he was also wrong to exonerate the DOD:
WAXMAN: This document seems to be credible evidence that the Defense Department was aware of the problem as well. Do you agree?
HEDDELL: It would appear so, sir.
The majority staff report also notes that KBR official Thomas Bruni may have lied under oath. In prepared testimony, he claimed, “Though we cannot be certain who installed the water pump [that killed Maseth] we do know that KBR did not do so.” But a KBR work order from July 9, 2007 stated, “Replace pressure switch & water pump.”
“We have absolved no one,” Heddell said. “We never have, and not at this moment.”
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