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240 crabs and a friend - frondelet
240 crabs and a friend
"Steven Spera, Sr.  Steve Spera

Of New Castle, DE, age 51, formerly of Westville, NJ died on March 16, 2008, at Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Mr. Spera was born in Camden, NJ and served in the U.S. Army. He retired from The Boiler Makers Union Local 13 in 2002 and was a member of the St. Anthony's Club of New Castle."

"Beloved father of the late Christina and brother of the late Joe. Survived by his sons, Steven (Danielle) of Westville, NJ and Robert (Melisa) of Wenonah; a brother, Tom of Ft. Myers, FL; 5 grandchildren and a dear companion, Linda Stipo.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend his Funeral Service on Friday, March 21, at 1 pm, at ELLIS-STIEFEL FUNERAL HOME, 301 Highland Ave., Westville, NJ where friends may call after 10 am. Interment in Eglington Cemetery, Clarksboro, NJ.

The family requests donations may be made in his memory to the Angel Food Ministries Atonement Methodist, 3519 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, DE 19703."

From the Wilmington News-Journal
Steve retired from the boilermakers, all right.  In the summer of 2001 he was working with a crew fixing the catwalks around big chemical tanks at an oil refinery in Delaware City.  The refinery, owned by a joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell and the Saudi kingdom's Aramco, hadn't bothered to maintain its tanks for years, because it didn't want to bear the cost of shutting down production.  The refinery owner didn't tell the contractor doing the catwalk repair that its own inspectors had repeatedly recommended that a 415,000 gallon sulfuric acid tank be taken out of service because it was corroded and ridden with holes.

There's no telling whether the vapors from the sulfuric acid in tank 393 were ignited by a spark from the welding or an impact between catwalk and tank, but ignite they did.  The result was a fireball that engulfed a neighborhood of the 8 square mile refinery, the rupture of tank 393 and another tank, and the discharge of 99,000 gallons of acid over the containment wall and into the Delaware River.  The EPA  later estimated that 2,400 fish were killed along with 240 crabs and fined the company ten million dollars.

What about the work crew?  Steve heard a noise and shouted "run!"  He and four other guys made it off the catwalk and over the wall.  Jeffrey Davis, a 50 year old father of five, did not.  The steel shanks of his boots and his belt buckle were found during the cleanup.  His body was dissolved by the acid.

AftermathSteve and the other workers, as well as two truck drivers waiting for loads, suffered extensive chemical burns.  Inhaling hot acid fumes isn't something I recommend for anyone.  From that day forward Steve did not draw a single breath without pain.

In addition to the EPA investigation, the refinery owner was prosecuted for the homicide of Jeff Davis and assault upon 6 of the injured workers.    The company pleaded "no contest."  Imagine, if you will, being accused of killing a man and saying "OK, no contest."  The company was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault and given the maximum penalty - a fine of $11,500 for killing Jeff Davis and $5,750 for assault of each injured worker.

The EPA fine works out to $3,787.88 for each fish and crab killed by the acid discharge.  Almost exactly one-third of the homicide fine.  Our governments think a man's life is only worth three fish or crabs.  That isn't good news.

My friend Steve Spera was an honest, honorable, hard-working guy.  I lost touch with him in the last years of his life, after putting on his boots, grabbing his helmet and going to work every morning was replaced by the listless days of the disabled and the alcohol and drugs that were his natural response to pain.  Though he  died in his sleep seven years after his health was sacrificed to corporate profit, his wife said that the man she loved died on the day of the fireball.

I have lost a friend.  It didn't have to happen.  I'm angry and sad.

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