Esso Admits Guilt Over Fawley Refinery Death

Esso and a Dorset-based contractor have pleaded guilty to health and safety offences over the death of a sailor at one of Europe's largest oil refineries, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

Honduran Juan Antonio Quintanilla Romero, 40, was working on the fuel tanker MV Castillo de Monterreal which had docked at the refinery near Southampton when he died on August 30 2008.

A large fuel pipe collapsed on him after the jib from which it was suspended gave way as a connector bolt which was severely corroded failed, the CPS said.

Esso Petroleum Company Limited, which owns the refinery and the jib that collapsed, admitted breaches in maintenance and lifting equipment regulations.

Three charges of failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees, and a breach of work equipment regulations, were ordered to lie on file.

Dorset-based Austin & McLean Limited, which was hired by Esso to undertake maintenance on the jib, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of non-employees.

A charge of corporate manslaughter was dropped due to insufficient evidence, as was a separate charge of failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees.

Gaon Hart, a senior Crown advocate for the CPS, said:

``Juan Quintanilla Romero died tragically and unnecessarily on August 30 2008 when a fuel pipe collapsed on him as he worked on a fuel tanker docked at Fawley Refinery, Southampton.''

``Today Esso Petroleum Company Limited pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court to one count relating to the maintenance of the crane, under s.33 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

``This offence properly reflects the criminality involved and provides the court with suitable sentencing powers. The prosecution has therefore accepted this plea.

``Four other health and safety offences in relation to Esso Petroleum Company Limited will lie on file.

``Austin & Mclean Limited, the company responsible for the maintenance of the steel cranes, known as jibs, that carried the fuel pipes, pleaded guilty to a health and safety offence in relation to Mr Romero's death on 6 June at Winchester Crown Court.

``This offence, under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, was for failing to ensure that non-employees such as Mr Romero, who was a seaman working on board a docked ship, were not exposed to risk at the marine terminal.

``Another charge of failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees will lie on file.

``I hope these convictions remind other companies and individuals who own and control the maintenance of cranes that the public rely heavily on their expertise to keep them safe from harm and that the CPS will diligently prosecute those who fail to meet this responsibility.

``I offer my sincerest condolences to the family of Mr Romero.

``Both companies will be sentenced later this year.''

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