Deadly explosion prompts push for new law

RUSK COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

RUSK COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A violent and deadly explosion has one East Texas family fighting for change.

Melissa Helsel-Williams was blown more than 100 feet when an oil tank blew up last week, just south of New London.

Her friend, Joseph Crisp, 24, is still recuperating in a Louisiana hospital.

It took less than one week for Melissa's family to get the ball rolling on a plan to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future.

Jerry Smires, Melissa's uncle, said he and his family are now working working to pass a law in memory of his niece.

Smires said he has no intention of hurting oil companies.  Smires wants "Melissa's Law" passed in order to make oil tank sites safer and more secure.

"Some sites have fences around them," said Smires.  "Make it mandatory for all of them."

A U.S. Chemical Safety Board report notes since 1983, 42 teenagers and young adults have died in oil tank explosions.

A 1983 explosion near Center, TX killed two teenage girls. Four teenagers died after a cigarette lighter ignited an oil tank near Palestine in 2003. One young man survived that explosion.

The CSB even launched an educational video, No Place To Hang Out, after two Mississippi teenagers died, last fall.

"They put videos out about drunk driving, too, but it doesn't seem to sink in," said Smires.  "But if they made something to keep people out of the cars, it might help. If they put some fences up to save one more life, that'd be worth it to me."

Smires said he is already contacted Governor Rick Perry's office and Representative Louie Gohmert.

The CSB has now urged the oil and gas industry and state lawmakers to take action.

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