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Wife Sues Two Years After Husband's Death at Sewickley Treatment Plant

Jack Hogan, 31, died when he fell from a ladder trying to escape from a pit filled with methane gas, according to the lawsuit.

The widow of a  Plant worker who died on the job in 2010 is suing the borough and others claiming her husband would still be alive if proper work and safety procedures had been in place.

Sarah Hogan of Baden filed two lawsuits July 26 in U.S. District Court and Allegheny County Court on behalf of her late husband, 31-year-old Jack Hogan III's estate, and their only daughter, who was 2 months at the time of her father's death and is now 2-years-old.

The lawsuits name , plant superintendent Dennis Mike and Franklin Pounds, an employee with Meadville-based Pipeline Systems, Inc. The suits also names Pipeline and two other companies, KLH Engineers, Inc. of Carnegie and Goodea Construction Inc. of Meadville that worked on the plant's renovation project.

Several counts have been filed against the parties that include wrongful death.

According to the federal suit, Jack Hogan was working July 29, 2010 at Sewickley’s treatment plant as an operator trainee when Mike assigned him to clean the pit. The suit claims "reverse age discrimination" was a regular practice because plant workers assigned to clean the pit were usually in their 20s and early 30s while older employees rarely did.

Hogan fell about 21 feet from a ladder onto a concrete floor as he tried to escape methane gas that filled the pit. Hogan, who had been working at the plant for about two months, died from blunt force trauma, according to court documents. 

The suit claims that Mike knew the pit area would fill with gas during summer months and that he was warned a few days earlier by a plant laborer who feared gas was building up and the meter to measure levels was malfunctioning. He never did anything about it, the lawsuit states. 

Knowing the dangers to workers, the suit states that Pipeline and Goodea, companies working on the plant renovation project, intentionally turned off the “fresh-air” system that was supposed to dissipate the gas buildup.

No operating safety equipment or procedures were in place to rescue workers, the suit states, and the wenches used for lifting employees out of the pit in emergencies was placed elsewhere in the plant. Mike and Pounds attempted to rescue Hogan without proper equipment and fell on top of him, rendered unconscious by the gas, according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims Hogan's death could have been avoided if not for "Sewickley's lack of monitoring and managing risk" and adopting the decisions "as borough policy and practice rather than reversing them." Sewickley owns and operates the plant.

Hogan seeks unspecified compensation and damages suffered for reasons including mental anguish, grief and sorrow, loss of service, protection and assistance, as well as funeral and burial expenses, economic losses, attorney’s fees and costs. 

Court documents show the federal lawsuit against Sewickley has gone to mediation.

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