GIs and Contractors Electrocuted in Iraq

Recent electrical incidents in Iraq have stirred up controversy. In August, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) issued a statement that the victim count stood at 18. Casey reported that 16 were U.S. military personnel, and two were U.S. contractors.

Earlier this year, Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth was electrocuted when the electricity in the shower facility short-circuited because an electric water pump on the rooftop was not properly grounded, according to the Army Criminal Investigation Division. The Pentagon has turned over further investigation to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) inspector general.

The Pentagon’s Inspector General Office (IG) has stated there have been other electrocutions involving contact with power lines, air conditioning units and power generators. Casey also reported that there have been dozens of injuries due to electric shock and hundreds of fires caused by faulty wiring.

Due to these electrocutions, Gen. David Petraeus formed an electrical safety joint planning team in July to oversee a theater-wide assessment of all facilities.

Houston-based KBR Inc., a military contractor, was responsible for the facility where Maseth was electrocuted and faces a subpoena from IG’s office. An initial investigation by the DOD’s Criminal Investigative Division office found that the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) was aware of the electrical safety hazard posed by this shower facility prior to Maseth’s death. KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne issued a statement that KBR denies any link between the work it performed and the electrocutions, and would cooperate with the investigation.

William Utt, KBR chief executive, has stated a February 2007 change of KBR’s contract limited its ability to perform maintenance and repairs. The company was downgraded from a level A to B, which meant the Army became primarily responsible for repairs and KBR could only repair what the Army asked it to.

Casey’s office released details about other deaths including vehicles touching live wires, a soldier killed while swimming, and a soldier electrocuted while power washing a Humvee.

According to Josh Holly, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee, the IG expects to release a full report by November.

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