Very early Saturday morning, Matt Gumbel, 34, the seventh and final victim of the April 2 explosion and fire at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, Washington lost his battle for life. Matt had been in intensive care with severe burns after the incident which initially killed 4 Tesoro workers and injured three. All three of those injured – including Matt – later succumbed to their injuries.
Never Forget Them
Donna Van Dreumel
On Sunday, a community memorial service was held in the Anacortes High School Auditorium to celebrate the lives of the victims and to allow friends and family to share memories and condolences. Over eight hundred family members, co-workers, USW brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors and others from the community somberly filed in to the room. On the stage before them were seven wreaths and seven poster size photos of the victims. A representative from each of the seven families came to up the podium to share their stories and their grief.
Other speakers included Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, “These seven workers left their homes that day to start a shift not unusual from any other. They knew it could be dangerous but they and you rightfully thought they would come home.”
President Obama offered words of hope to the families through a statement read by Tom Montgomery, an Anacortes oil worker:
“As a lasting tribute we pledge our renewed vigilance to ensure that workplace conditions are safe and secure so every American can return home at the end of each work day.”
“I pray that the cherished memories of those lost will live on in all the hearts of all they knew and loved.”
USW Vice-President, Gary Beevers, “These brave men and women paid the ultimate price doing what every single one of us takes pride in doing – going to work to earn an honest living to support our families and our communities.”
However, the feelings of USW members everywhere were probably best summed up by USW Local 12-591 President, Joe Solomon, “They were and always will be my union brothers and sisters. We love you; we miss you; and we will never forget you.”
The cause of the explosion is unknown at this time. The Washington Department of Labor and Industry reports that investigators have had limited access to the blast site because of asbestos, structural damage and debris. US Chemical Safety Board investigators are also waiting to get access to the scene.
United Steelworkers Local 12-591 has started a memorial fund for the families of the seven workers. Contributions to the Tesoro Incident Family Fund can be sent to: Tesoro Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 248, Anacortes, WA 98221-0248; or to: USW Local 12-591, P.O. Box 483, Anacortes, WA, 98221-0483.