AUSTIN (KXAN) — The family of a city contractor, who died after breathing toxic fumes and falling into an airport grease trap he was cleaning in April 2019, has sued the City of Austin and Austin Bergstrom International Airport in Travis County District Court, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 11.
Lonnie Deary was cleaning the grease trap, located in an underground vault, at AUS early on the morning April 10, 2019. While climbing down a ladder into the confined space, Deary, a 48-year-old Army veteran, was overcome by fumes and fell. He hit his head, suffocated and later died, according to city records obtained by KXAN.
Other workers trying to save Deary were also injured.
“Fumes emitted from the machinery in the confined space Lonnie Deary and others were working in proved to be toxic. As a result, Lonnie Deary, along with several other employees, were poisoned by said noxious fumes. After inhaling said fumes, Lonnie Deary fell from the rafters into a grease trap and subsequently succumbed to his injuries,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges AUS and the City of Austin created dangerous conditions that caused Deary’s death; they failed to implement proper safety devices, procedures and warnings; and they failed to provide functional work equipment.
The lawsuit is brought by Betty Gean Deary Davis, a representative of Deary’s estate, and it seeks the “maximum amount of damages allowable.”
An investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found Liquid Environmental Solutions failed to provide the necessary training and equipment to access that confined underground space. OSHA fined the company more than $287,00 for four violations, including two classified as “serious” and two classified as “willful.”