Wrongful death lawsuit filed over deadly Lemont refinery explosion, fire

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Seneca Petroleum did not immediately respond to a message through its website.

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a 25-year-old worker who was killed following an explosion and fire last year at Seneca Petroleum’s refinery in unincorporated Lemont.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday on behalf of Dru Worker, 25, of Homewood, who was killed in the April 25 incident, and Roberto Betancourt, 58, of Bolingbrook, another worker who was injured at Seneca Petroleum facility, 12460 New Ave., in unincorporated Lemont.

The lawsuit from the attorneys with Clifford Law Offices in Chicago names Seneca Petroleum, PDV Midwest Refining and Citgo Petroleum Corporation as defendants in the case. Citgo was unable to be reached by their website and phone.

Worker was identified last year by Will County Coroner Laurie Summers as the man who died at Seneca Petroleum.

Worker’s mother and father, Dianalynn and Dale Worker, are the administrators of his estate who initiated the legal action against those companies.

In a statement, Craig Squillace, a partner with Clifford Law Offices, said the incident was “simply preventable had simple safety precautions been taken for those innocent men who unknowingly were in harm’s way.”

“The families of these workers need answers as to what happened that tragic day,” Squillace said.

The lawsuit alleged there was a blockage or a plug in the piping and equipment system on April 25 at the petroleum facility. This situation prevented liquid petroleum products from being transferred within the piping and equipment system at the facility.

The staff with the companies listed in the lawsuit allegedly “injected pressurized air into the piping and equipment system to unplug them,” which was a violation of industry safety standards and created a safety risk, according to the lawsuit.

That action then caused a storage tank to “overpressure, catch fire and/or explode,” which killed Worker and injured Betancourt, according to the lawsuit.

The incident at the petroleum facility was under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office and Illinois Occupational Safety and Health Administration.