FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — A lawsuit was filed on behalf of a worker who was seriously injured while working on Fort Wayne’s Deep Rock Tunnel project two months ago.
The lawsuit states that on April 16, 31-year-old Tyler Tompkins was working in the tunnel more than 200 feet below ground when a pipe exploded.
According to the suit, Tompkins was struck with high-pressure slurry and suffered a brain injury that left him physically and mentally incapacitated.
Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems, USA, Inc. and Shambaugh & Son, L.P. are named as defendants in the suit.
“Our investigation revealed that this explosion was entirely preventable,” said Fort Wayne attorney Robert Boughter of Boughter Sinak, who is representing the Tompkins' in the lawsuit.
The incident was investigated by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) and Tompkins family, who hired a consultant to inspect the tunnel after the incident.
Boughter said the expert determined the explosion happened due to defects in the design and manufacturing of the tunnel boring machine (TBM), nicknamed “MamaJo”, and its related piping and electronically controlled systems.
IOSHA required several changes to be made to the TBM to prevent future accidents from happening.
“These parties failed in their duty to protect Tyler and other workers in the tunneling operations,” Boughter said. “They failed in their duty to ensure the TBM and its systems were safe to use on this project. We are determined to help Tyler and his family get justice and to prevent other workers from suffering a similar fate.”
Boughter said that Tompkins has suffered and will continue to suffer from physical pain, mental trauma and will require long-term care.
A Shambaugh & Son spokesperson issued the following statement to FOX 55, “We at Shambaugh share our sincere sympathy for Mr. Tompkins and his extended family. That said, as this is now a matter of ongoing litigation, we do not intend to comment further.”
The project involves boring a five-mile tunnel through bedrock under the city to divert sewage away from Fort Wayne's rivers and directly to the wastewater treatment plant.
The Deep Rock Tunnel project is the largest and most expensive public works project in the city’s history.
The project began in 2018 and is estimated to cost nearly $250 million.
You can view the lawsuit filing below.