Casey Releases Latest Update from Defense Department on Electrocution Issue

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey released the following statement after being informed by the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) that 18 individuals have been electrocuted in Iraq, that the IG is now subpoenaing KBR for additional documents and that the IG has decided to expand the investigation beyond just the Maseth death to all nine Americans who died due to faulty wiring.  

“I'm pleased that the vigilance of Cheryl Harris and the work of the Congress has spurred more movement by the Department of Defense to address the deadly problems of accidental electrocutions.  It is also a positive step that the IG has expanded their investigation to not just look at the death of Ryan Maseth, but to also investigate all deaths caused by faulty wiring.   

“Unfortunately, we learned today that an updated total of 18 Americans have died in Iraq, with one of the two additional deaths an electrocution while taking a shower, the same manner in which Ryan Maseth died.  The changes undertaken by the Pentagon have come too late and should not have required this much effort to achieve.  By now, I would have hoped to see greater progress on inspections of facilities in Iraq.” 

In a separate letter from the DoD, Senator Casey also learned that only 45% of temporary facilities and 65% of the grounding rods supporting permanent/temporary facilities have been inspected so far even though the general order mandating such inspections came out shortly after the death of Ryan Maseth in January. 

Senator Casey has pressured the Department of Defense (DoD) for answers on the issue of electrocution-related deaths in Iraq since learning about this fatal problem from Cheryl Harris, mother of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth who was electrocuted while taking a shower in Iraq.  Last month, Senator Casey learned from General David Petraeus that he has formed an "Electrical Safety Joint Planning Team" to oversee the theater-wide assessment of all facilities following a series of electrocutions in Iraq.  

After meeting with Cheryl Harris this spring, Senator Casey sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, demanding to know what steps the Department of Defense (DOD) has taken to ensure that no other soldiers serving in Iraq are electrocuted due to faulty wiring or negligent maintenance.   

In June, after meeting with the CEO of KBR Inc., William Utt, Senator Casey sent follow-up letters to Mr. Utt and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about what they are doing to fix the systemic problem of faulty wiring at facilities and prevent further harm to our troops in Iraq.   

According to the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Staff Sergeant Maseth died when the electricity in the shower facility short-circuited because an electric water pump on the rooftop was not properly grounded.  An initial investigation by the DOD’s Criminal Investigative Division office found that the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) was aware of the electrical safety hazard posed by this shower facility prior to the death of Staff Sgt. Maseth.  The Pentagon has turned over the investigation to the Department’s Inspector General (IG) for further investigation.  The IG has stated that the report should be completed by October.




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