No criminal charges will be filed against military contractor KBR Inc. in connection with the electrocution of a Green Beret soldier who died while showering in his barracks in Iraq, the Defense Department said Friday.
Investigators said there was "insufficient evidence to prove or disprove" that anyone was criminally culpable in the January 2008 death of 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth of Pittsburgh. The uproar over his death triggered a review of 17 other electrocution deaths in Iraq and widespread inspections.
Maseth's death at first was ruled an accident. But later, an Army investigator called Maseth's death a "negligent homicide," caused by Houston-based KBR and two of its supervisors, and said it had failed to ensure that "qualified electricians and plumbers" worked on the building where Maseth died, according to an internal document obtained by The Association Press.
On Friday, the Defense Department said that while both contractors and government employees "breached their respective duties of care" the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command determined that none of the breaches alone were "the proximate cause of his death." Army criminal investigators also concurred that the manner of death was accidental.
Maseth's mother, Cheryl Harris, said the findings were heartbreaking and disappointing.
"According to the CID there were so many failures on KBR's part that they couldn't assign all of the blame to any one person and therefore told us they were not going to file charges, which tells me that the CID doesn't know or is ignorant to the evidence I do know exists," said Harris, who met with Army criminal investigators on Friday afternoon.
Last week, the Defense Department's inspector general said that Maseth died when he came in contact with an energized metal shower and hose caused by the failure of an ungrounded water pump located on the roof of the building installed by KBR. The IG said KBR did not ground equipment during installation or report improperly grounded equipment during routine maintenance, nor did it have standard operating procedures for inspections.
But the inspector general also said that military commanders and key decision makers failed to ensure that renovations and maintenance were properly performed.
KBR, based in Houston, has said it informed the military of the absence of grounding and bonding in the structure where Maseth died nine months before his death.
Heather Browne, a KBR spokeswoman, said Friday in an e-mail that the company was pleased with the findings.
"While Staff Sergeant Maseth's death was tragic, KBR maintains that it was not responsible for his death," Browne said.
Continuing court battles
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said he doesn't accept the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists.
"No person, let alone an American serving his country, should step into a shower and die as a consequence," Casey said.
Maseth's family has an ongoing lawsuit against KBR.
Last fall, Gen. David Petraeus, then the commander in Iraq, ordered an inspection of about 90,000 U.S.-maintained facilities in Iraq by a task force called Task Force SAFE. Of the 67,000 inspected so far, about 18,000 have been found to have major deficiencies. About 11,000 of the major deficiencies have been repaired, according to the task force.