By Jim Morris and Chris Hamby and M.B. Pell
The Center for Public Integrity
One evening last April at the Tesoro Corp.’s refinery in Anacortes, Washington, Matt Gumbel and six co-workers cautiously returned to service a stack of giant, radiator-like tubes filled with volatile hydrocarbons. The tubes, known as heat exchangers, tended to leak, especially during start-up, and workers sometimes armed themselves with long, steam-spewing lances to keep any escaping vapors from igniting.
Nearby, another stack of exchangers droned at full temperature and pressure.
Away from work, Gumbel, 34, enjoyed off-trail snowboarding and driving his turbocharged sports compact. On the job, he had a reputation as a meticulous worker. One has to be. Gasoline and other fuels are made from hot, sometimes barely contained brews of combustible substances. Gumbel knew the hazards intimately; he’d followed his father’s footsteps into a job at the refinery.