Workers who were involved in the collapse of a nuclear power station in western New Mexico have sued the state for violating the National Labor Relations Act.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, accuses the state of failing to provide adequate medical care for workers who died during the March 29 collapse.
The workers, all in their late 60s, say they were injured in the March 14, 2021, accident.
“They were not given the medical care they needed for their injuries,” said the suit filed by former New Mexico Gov.
Gary Johnson, who was also a state attorney general at the time.
The suit names the state, the city of Albuquerque, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state’s health department.
The three entities are named in the suit as defendants in the case.
The plaintiffs are members of the Albuquerque Nurses Union and the union that represents some of the unionized workers, said a spokesman for Johnson, Jim Schuetz.
The union is represented by a lawyer, Michael J. Langer, who said in a statement Wednesday that the lawsuit was filed to protect the rights of all workers who were hurt in the accident.
The New Mexico Labor Department declined to comment.
The accident at the Nellis Air Force Base near Albuquerque, a popular tourist destination, occurred at the height of a summertime summer tourist season.
There was an intense heat wave, and the air conditioner was operating on low power, a problem exacerbated by the high winds and high temperatures that came during the hot summer.
The facility was built in the 1970s and was designed to provide cooling to about 15,000 people.
The blast sent shrapnel through the air conditioning unit and onto buildings and nearby buildings, including the Nettles Center for the Arts, the center that houses the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.
The explosion was so intense that it shattered windows and walls in nearby buildings and sent debris flying across the street, a witness told The Associated Press.
An Nelles Police Department investigator testified Wednesday that his department received numerous reports of loud explosions from inside the Nells Air Force base.
Some workers told investigators that a second explosion sounded louder and lasted for several minutes, and that at least two workers were injured by the second blast, the investigator said.
The Nellys fire department and the Nervana Fire Department, both part of the Nelsons Fire Department in Albuquerque and located about three miles (5 kilometers) away, responded to the scene of the explosion.
According to the lawsuit, some workers at the site told investigators they heard a boom and thought it was a construction site being built.
The complaint filed Wednesday accuses the Nerners and the city and state of negligent design, and claims that “Nellis was built to house an Air Force installation, not a civilian facility.”
The city of New Mexico and state governments have denied that they are negligent.
The federal Occupation Safety and Hazard Investigation Agency investigated the explosion at the base and said it was “an isolated incident.”
The Nervanas fire department was not involved in responding to the blast and is not a subject of the lawsuit.
“This was a small, isolated incident, but it’s a tragic one,” Johnson said in April, after the disaster.
Johnson said that at the request of the city, the Nelmans Fire Department was placed in charge of the rescue of injured workers, and he ordered the city to reimburse the city for the cost of the fire service, including personnel costs, as well as any and all other costs incurred.
“I was concerned about the safety of workers, but I was also concerned about their future and I did what I could to help them,” Johnson told the AP at the April event.
In July, Johnson, a Republican who ran for president in 2020, also announced that he would create a new national agency to look into nuclear safety.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the state argues that Johnson and the U.N. were “unfairly” criticized for their response to the disaster and that the Nords failed to provide workers with the necessary medical care.
The state alleges that “New Mexico was negligent in failing to comply with its obligations under the National Occupational Health and Safety Act” and “was not providing workers with appropriate medical care.”
The state also alleges that the city did not follow its own policy for how to treat workers injured in accidents and that Johnson “failed to provide a safe environment for workers.”
The lawsuit says that when it was determined that there were not enough medical care workers in the Nilsons building, the mayor of Nellos, a state senator and a state lawmaker decided to suspend operations at the building and put out an advisory stating that workers at Nellosi could not work there.
“The mayor’s decision to suspend work was the direct result of a medical emergency that occurred on the Nelson Air Force Barracks in the early hours of March 14,” the lawsuit said.