(15 January 2002, Washington) A 49-year-old Boeing worker was performing
maintenance on a giant, computer-controlled machine that makes parts out of
metal blocks using hydraulics to control its movement. The hydraulic lines
are pressurized to 20,000 PSI even when the machine is shut off. Working
on equipment such as this requires attention to detail, and a careless
employee is liable to suffer dire consequences.
Boeing News Release
The Boeing Company extends its sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the employee who was fatally injured in an accident at the Boeing site in Auburn, WA.
The employee, who worked for Boeing Equipment Services, was performing routine maintenance on a machine in the Integrated AeroStructures building when the incident occurred. He was immediately transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died.
The cause of the accident is under investigation. We are deeply saddened by this very difficult and tragic event.
The potential for trouble should have been obvious to this sixteen-year
member of the Machinists Union, and yet, despite redundant safety
procedures, tags, warning signs, and a fearful co-worker, our Darwin Award
hopeful began to remove a hydraulic line without relieving the pressure.
The bolts holding the line in place were so tight that he had to locate a
4-foot section of pipe to attach to his ratchet to give him enough leverage
to loosen the bolt. For some, that would have been warning enough that the
line was pressurized.
Four high-strength bolts attached the line to the machine. The
soon-to-be-ex-employee had removed three, and loosened the fourth, when the
over-stressed bolt snapped. A foot-long, 3" diameter brass sleeve was
inside the line to prevent the hose from kinking. It shot out and hit the
mechanic in the forehead with such force that it knocked him back eight
feet, ricocheted off his head, and hit a crane fifty feet overhead.
The maintenance worker never knew what hit him.
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The details of this event come from eyewitness reports and a news
release from Boeing. The precise details are disputed, but the story is
written to take as many observations into account as possible.
Eyewitnesses and knowledgeable parties are encouraged to step forward to
confirm or dispute this account.