VALPARAISO | An $8.2 million settlement has been reached in the wake of a Jan. 7, 2010, explosion at the former Beta Steel plant in Portage that left one man dead and another severely injured.
A $3.4 million share, minus an attorney cut of 33-1/3 percent and costs, was directed to the survivors of Michael Kies, a 35-year-old Griffith man killed in the blast, according to court records.
The balance, minus the attorney cut, will go to Valparaiso resident Stephen Kinlaw, who was 33 at the time of the explosion that left him disabled with brain and orthopedic injuries.
Attorney Kenneth Allen, who represented the interests of the men along with attorney Raymond Asher, said the settlement brings some measure of closure to the Kies family and will allow Kinlaw to receive the medical care he needs to live as normal a life as possible.
Allen referred to the explosion as a "foreseeable and preventable tragedy."
The explosion occurred as Kies and Kinlaw were working to repair a leak on the roof of an electric arc furnace used to melt scrap metal into steel, according to a court document. Beta's furnace reportedly was modified to use both electric and chemical energy to dramatically speed up the melting process.
The settlement says the operators and others knew or should have known the furnace had exploded previously, and that parts and modifications made it even more likely that another explosion would reoccur.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Amerifab Inc., Praxair Inc., Rubicon Refractories Inc. and AMI GE, as working in concert with Beta Steel Corp.