Editorial: Some accidents shouldn’t happen

Mountain climbers and Bering Sea crab fishermen routinely put their lives at risk because they enjoy the rewards, whether spiritual or financial, that accompany their endeavors.

But for average people, just going to work should not be a life-endangering experience. That’s why it’s so tragic that two Oak Harbor residents, Donna Mae Van Dreumel and Matt Gumbel, and five others died as a result of the April 2 explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes.

Gumbel was the last to go, fighting for his life until Saturday, leaving behind a devastated family one day before Sunday’s community memorial service in Anacortes.

The exact cause of the Tesoro explosion is still being investigated, but it’s not too early to say that it never should have happened. Obviously, the proper fail-safe procedures were not in place or were not being followed. There was a lapse in planning or management, one that cost seven lives and shattered their families and an entire community.

Working with flammable and explosive products is inherently dangerous, of course, but that’s all the more reason to make sure nothing can go wrong. It’s not the first deadly refinery explosion in Anacortes, but it must be the last.

Tesoro is an industrial setting, not an icy mountaintop or tempestuous sea. Conditions can be controlled and dangers foreseen and forestalled. The company, the state and federal authorities must work together to make sure a deadly explosion never happens again. It will be an expensive and difficult process but we owe it to the seven victims and their families to make sure it succeeds and we never again experience such a tragedy.

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