Inquiry planned in Dallas tower fire that killed 3 workers

DALLAS (TIP): One of the three men who died last week in a construction fire in downtown Dallas had worked as a welder for only three months and had no training in the field, his family says.

Concerns about whether lax standards contributed to the fire have prompted two of the workers’ families to launch an independent inquiry into the fatal fire in an underground tank at Thanksgiving Tower, their attorney said Thursday, December 18.

“It’s been a very difficult time for these families to lose their husbands and fathers in this holiday season,” said lawyer Domingo Garcia, who is representing the relatives of Nicacio Carrillo-Martinez and Oscar Esparza-Romo.

The family of the third man, Luis Carrillo-Solorzano, hasn’t decided whether to pursue legal action, Garcia said.

Best Mechanical Inc. had subcontracted the three Texas HVAC employees to clean several water tanks at the 50-story tower. They died of smoke inhalation after they were trapped by fire in one of the 35-foot-deep tanks, which was part of the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

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Questions of liability have arisen since officials said the men and Best Mechanical lacked permits for welding, cutting and hot work. Best Mechanical has said safety equipment and evacuation procedures were in place at the work site.

Dallas Fire-Rescue and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the fire. But Garcia said his firm also has hired a former OSHA investigator.

He said an inspection is scheduled next week that will lay the foundation for a private inquiry, which will include interviews with witnesses.

A family spokesman said Esparza-Romo, who worked for Texas HVAC for about two years, had 10 years of welding experience but had not been formally trained.

Carrillo-Martinez, 60, moved to North Texas three months ago. He had recently been introduced to welding when his nephew, Luis Carrillo-Solorzano, helped him get a job at Texas HVAC.

At a news conference Thursday, the workers’ relatives expressed their grief and discussed their decision to seek legal representation.

“We’re here because we want justice. As you can see, it’s caused a lot of pain and suffering to my family,” said Jose Velasquez, a spokesman for Esparza-Romo’s family. “More than anything, we want to prevent this stuff from happening to other families.”

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