ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Inoperative brakes caused a fatal truck accident at the Valdez pipeline terminal last summer, according to an internal investigation by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.
Brakes on five of six of the gravel truck's wheels weren't working when Jerry Barnes, 51, plunged over an embankment to his death, according to Alyeska.
''This is an event that could have been prevented, should have been prevented,'' Alyeska spokesman Tim Woolston said. ''This is obviously a serious matter and we're trying to figure out what to do about it.''
Alyeska ordered a line-wide inspection of all its vehicles starting about two weeks ago, when the brake problems were identified, Woolston said.
Alyeska contractor Houston/NANA, which maintains Alyeska's equipment, is checking each piece of equipment in Alyeska's inventory to make sure the company doesn't have similar problems elsewhere, Woolston said. Houston/NANA is also doing a complete analysis of all equipment processes and procedures to find out what went wrong, Woolston said.
The truck was inspected six times in the nine months prior to the accident, Alyeska said. One was a required state inspection in November 1999.
That inspection by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities found no problems except a bad rear turn signal, according to Alyeska. Notes from the other inspections showed no checks of the brake adjusters, which Alyeska determined were the cause of the brake problem.
Worn and out-of-tolerance brake slack adjusters on five of the six wheels on the rig kept the brake shoes from contacting the drums to stop the truck, investigators found.
As the truck, carrying a 30-ton load, came down a hill on Powerhouse Road at the terminal, Barnes couldn't slow the truck enough to make a turn, and the truck went over the embankment and fell about 50 feet down a rock cliff.
Barnes was on the road despite a terminal directive limiting the road to vehicles rated to haul less than one ton, Alyeska also found.
The company is investigating how the one-ton weight limit on Powerhouse Road was communicated to workers, Woolston said, and examining how such directives are communicated company-wide.
''Going forward, we are revising how policies are established and communicated,'' said Dan Hisey, Alyeska's chief operating officer, in a statement. ''There is much in this report to consider and examine further and we are continuing to assess all of its implications.''
Barnes was killed shortly before 10 p.m. on Aug. 16. He was hauling fill for a parking lot expansion at the terminal's emergency response building.
The Valdez Police Department is also investigating the incident, Woolston said, but the department has not yet issued its report.
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