Smith Families Demand Safety Changes At Encana

Oil pumps

The families of Tony and Deaun Smith have written the presidents of Encana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc. and Encana Corporation, asking each of them to institute company safety changes to protect the public from future trucking tragedies such as the collision that killed Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith were killed on August 25, 2011 when an Encana Oil and Gas (USA) service truck—weighing more than 16,000 pounds—crashed into the Smiths’ PT Cruiser as it was stopped at a highway construction project site. The Encana truck was speeding at 67 miles per hour and did not slow down or brake prior to the collision. The explosive forces unleashed by the collision exceeded 2,460,000 foot pounds of energy—a massive and needless tragedy. Mr. and Mrs. Smith died at the scene.

The Encana driver had a degenerative eye disease. The company had known about it for more than four years prior to the collision. The disease—Stargardt’s Disease—causes blindness in the central vision field, expanding outward and resulting in ultimate blindness. The same employee had been involved with seven prior crashes (including collisions with a wild horse, a calf, a deer, an antelope, and another heavy duty service truck), been convicted to two speeding charges, received a warning charge for speeding, and had a medical certificate that had been expired for more than a year. Yet Encana Oil & Gas (USA) permitted him to drive the service truck in spite of those blatant red flags.

The families—represented by Bob Schuster of Jackson, Wyoming—filed wrongful death cases against Encana Oil and Gas (USA) that were settled prior to trial for confidential amounts.

In writing to the presidents of Encana Oil and Gas (USA), Inc. and its parent corporation (Encana Corporation), the family members emphasized that—in addition to reaching a monetary settlement of the lawsuits—the more important task was to make certain that the safety issues were addressed so that the same tragedy would not be inflicted on other families.

The letter was sent to Randy Eresman, President of Encana Corporation, and Jeff Wojahn, President of Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. The family members explained their reasons for writing the companies:

We would ask that you candidly evaluate the circumstances of these deaths and then take those actions that may assure that other families will not experience similar losses. In that manner, all of us would be able to say that the deaths of Tony and Deaun were not in vain—that they stood for something—and that the two of you did your part to make sure that appropriate safety policies and safety systems are adopted by your companies—parent and subsidiary alike. That is the purpose of this letter—and that is why we, as the individual family members who have suffered this tragedy, write directly to you as the individual chief executives of each of the companies.

The families asked the companies to appoint a blue ribbon task force to make specific recommendations for a comprehensive safety program at Encana. But other recommendations were also made: to establish a safety data system that would require systematic analysis; yearly gathering of driver information regarding criminal charges and vehicular incidents; a specific action program to research any medical conditions or disabilities of drivers; comprehensive written safety policies; the adoption of standards that would actually be enforced; the establishment of policies that would require accountability and responsibility for unsafe actions.

The presidents were asked to report back to the family within 120 days to inform them as to the specific actions undertaken by the companies in response to their letter. They were also asked to provide a copy of the letter to each member of the companies’ Boards of Directors and to retain a copy of the letter in the corporate files so it would be available to future families in the event a similar tragedy were to occur.