Family Files Lawsuit for Death of Worker at Kansas Westar Energy Plant


November 08, 2018

KANSAS CITY, KS. – November 1, 2018 (ledger-enquirer.com) The family of a worker who died at a Kansas Westar Energy plant this summer has filed a lawsuit in federal court, according to an online new story from ledger-enquirer.com.*

Damien Burchett, of Overbrook, Kansas, was one of two workers killed June 3 when an elevator at a Westar Energy plant in Topeka filled with superheated steam. The plant had been shut down for three months for routine maintenance, and upon reopen, one of three steam turbines at the plant did not have full power. Burchett and Jesse Henson, of Manhattan, Kansas, rode an elevator at the plant to the 14th floor to investigate the loss of steam at a safety relief valve.

The safety relief valve is supposed to vent steam outside of the plant if the pressure becomes too high. The valve had been either ripped off or failed altogether, and it allowed steam to fill the room on the 14th floor. When the elevator doors opened on the 14th floor, superheated steam flooded through. Burchett and Henson were “engulfed in flesh-boiling steam,” according to court pleadings, and endured “horrific” deaths.

Burchett’s children filed a lawsuit on October 31, 2018 in Kansas federal court against three companies that manufactured and maintained the steam turbine and valve. The lawsuit alleges that Team Industrial Services, Emerson Electric Co., and Siemens were negligent in manufacturing, building, and maintaining the turbine and valve. The lawsuit also challenges the state’s limit of $250,000 on legal claims stemming from workplace deaths. 

The defendants have not yet filed responsive pleadings, and their counsel would not comment on the lawsuit. 

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