Remembering Those Who Fell

We pay tribute to those brothers and sisters who never made it home

Jerry Canell - 1955

Jerry was working on top of a fuel blending tank at the Shell* refinery. An inner heating coil developed a leak, allowing hot steam condensate to mix with the asphalt within the tank. The rapid heating caused the tank wall to rupture, allowing its contents to begin boiling out. Jerry jumped from the tank roof, hitting his head as he landed, resulting in his death.



Ed Stocker - 1979                      Earl Staneck - 1979


Ed and Earl were working for PM Northwest at the Shell* refinery. As they were pulling a blind, gases were released and ignited by a nearby heater, killing both men.



Bob Owings - 1988

While working for Texaco*, Bob fell from a ladder, injuring his leg. During his recuperation, a blood clot formed, broke loose, and made its way to Bob's heart.







Jeff Heidingsfelder - 1992

Jeff was working for PM Northwest at the BP refinery in Ferndale, giving signals to a crane operator below. Below Jeff were two coworkers pulling a blind. As the blind was pulled, gases were released and ignited by a nearby heater. A huge fireball erupted. As the fireball moved up the tower, Jeff was killed.





Tracy Giles - 1996

Employed by Texaco*, Tracy was working with coworkers to prepare an exchanger for maintenance. While attempting to steam out the exchanger, a plug formed, creating a pressure build up. As Tracy was making her way down scaffolding, the pressure blew the exchanger cover off, striking Tracy in the head and killing her instantly.





Equilon* Coker Tragedy - 1998


Wayne Dowe                                        Jim Berlin


Warren "Woody" Fry                                  Ted Cade

Jim, Ted, Warren (Woody), and Wayne were working on the Coker unit at the Equilon* refinery. The unit was in an upset due to a total power failure at the refinery. As the members, along with two other coworkers, were unheading a coke drum, a pocket of high temperature hydrocarbon broke free. Upon contact with air, the hydrocarbon self-ignited, sending a giant fireball up the structure. All six people on the structure were killed.

As a way to remember the tragic events related to the Coker Fire, Brother Paul Demmon put together a great document on what really happened, primarily from the memories of those involved.

Never Forget


Tesoro Northwest Heater Fire - 2010


Dan Aldridge                                      Matt Bowen


Matt Gumbel                                      Darrin Hoines


    Kathryn Powell                                Donna Van Dreumel


At 12:30 a.m. on April 2, while personnel were performing post-maintenance heat exchanger restart operations, a heat exchanger on an adjacent bank catastrophically and violently ruptured. The pressure-containing shell of the heat exchanger burst at its weld seams, expelling a large volume of very hot hydrogen and naphtha, which spontaneously ignited upon contact with the surrounding air. The ensuing explosion was so violent that many in Anacortes felt the shock wave across Fidalgo Bay. A giant fireball lit up the sky above the refinery, and a plume of black smoke was pushed toward the town by a southeast wind. It took about 90 minutes to put the fire out.

Operators Matthew C. Bowen, 31; Darrin J. Hoines, 43; and Daniel J.Aldridge, 50, were killed in the initial blast. Operators Kathryn Powell, 29, and Donna Van Dreumel, 36, later died of their burns at the hospital. Operator Matt Gumbel, 34, along with Lew Janz, 41, a supervisor and former long-time union member, died a few weeks later.

During a memorial held on April 25, friends and family members shared loving memories while mourning the loss of their husbands, wives and good friends. We learned that Daniel Aldridge was a dedicated father and husband with a gift for gab -- he could take the conversation from classical guitar, to the history of Washington, to single-malt scotch, to the best fishing rivers in oregon and finally to the ins and outs of basketball, almost all in one breath.  

In a letter, Matthew Bowen’s wife, Rachel, described her husband as the “most incredible person,” her ally, her protector and a wonderful father. “He made this home what it is,” she wrote. “He made it the happiest place on earth.” 

Darrin Hoines was described by his wife as “tenderhearted” and as “strong as an ox.” She was proud to learn that he could the tightest valve, high praise for a refinery worker. Darrin, we learned, also loved practical jokes and always attended the activities of his children and stepchildren from softball to Taekwondo. 

The outgoing Kathryn Powell lovingly shared her home-cooked meals, said her brother, Michael. Kathryn, he said, met everyone with a non judgemental, open heart. 

Donna Van Dreumel’s husband described the loss of this “beautiful and vibrant individual” who made friends so quickly. Matt Gumbel’s sister, Amy, said that that any time she feels like quitting, she’ll remember Matt’s struggle to live and not give up.  

Lew Janz’s daughter said that he was blessed with a sense of humor and the gift for treating others with dignity and respect. He loved golfing, hiking and most of all his family.  

May the memory of our beloved brothers and sisters spur us never to give up the fight for a safer workplace. ~ Butch Cleeve


Washington State Refinery Incidents (PowerPoint Presentation)

Process Safety Management (pdf)


* Refinery ownership history is as follows:

Texaco - Opened in 1957. Became Equilon in 1999 through a partnership with Shell. Shell bought out Texaco's interest and the site became wholly owned by Shell in 2002.

Shell - Opened in 1955. Regulations forced the sale of this refinery in 1999 due to the Shell/Texaco partnership. Tesoro became the owner in 1999.
Tesoro briefly changed its name to Andeavor. Shortly after, in 2018, Andeavor was bought by Marathon.