Family seeks answers after worker dies in refinery accident

Family seeks for answers after worker dies in refinery accident

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - One family is desperate to lay their loved one to rest after he died in an accident at the Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse. It happened Independence Day but, up until Saturday, the family had no idea when they'd get his body back.

"It was tragic. It was like a nightmare," said Floyd Young.

Young is just getting over the shock of losing his friend and colleague, Jerome Matthews.

"He did his job. He listened to us. He came to work on time. He did what he was supposed to do. He was a real, real good guy," Young said. "He was working the night shift. There were three of us. It was very slippery and nasty on top of the tower where we were working and he was grabbing the hose and he slipped and fell into the coolant tower."

Young says he and Matthews are employees of Hydrochem PSC, doing contract work for Phillips 66.

He says all three men on duty that night were safety-conscious and followed all the proper procedures.

"If he knew he was in a situation that could cost him his life, he wouldn't of stayed in that type of environment," said Matthews' widow Racquel.

She says he'd only been with the company several months but had years of experience working off-shore.

Even though he spent weeks at a time away from his son and young daughter, Racquel says Jerome always put family first.

"He was a good man, a great provider. His main thing was trying to work hard so we can provide for his family," Racquel explained.

Now, she and the rest of the Matthews family want closure.

"How or why? And that information still hasn't been told to us," Racquel said.

Days after the tragedy, she says she's still without answers and her husband's body.

"For a big company like this to handle it this way, it's mind-boggling," Racquel exclaimed. "We just want his remains so we can put him to rest."

Representatives with Philips 66 say after multiple recovery attempts were unsuccessful, a shutdown of the entire refinery began in order to allow emergency responders safe access to the basin.

Saturday, they completed the shutdown and emergency responders searched the basin.

Reps say they recovered Matthews' remains and turned them over to the Plaquemines Parish Coroner's Office. Yet, search and recovery efforts continue.

They go on to say personnel at the Alliance Refinery are deeply saddened by this accident, and their thoughts and prayers are with the worker's loved ones.

An investigation into the cause of the incident is underway.

Parish representatives say OSHA is also on hand.

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