June 11, 1995 in Nation/World

Bombing Survivors Suing Fertilizer Maker Plaintiffs Say Chemical Additivie Could Have Prevented Blast; Company Says No Additive Exists

Associated Press
 

Bombing victims lashed out Saturday at a company they believe made the fertilizer used in the deadly attack, saying a hunger for profit cost lives.

“I was on the seventh floor when the bomb exploded and the building disappeared in front of my desk, and I’m mad,” said Robyn Parent, who lost sight in one eye.

Parent and 82 other victims of the blast are suing ICI Explosives USA Inc., which makes ammonium nitrate fertilizer and explosives. The 4,800-pound bomb that killed 168 people and injured 500 more on April 19 was made of an explosive mixture of fuel oil and the fertilizer, authorities say.

The federal court lawsuit claims that ICI supplied fertilizer to the Mid-Kansas Co-op in McPherson, Kan., where authorities believe the fertilizer used in the bomb was bought. Lawyers filing the lawsuit include O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran.

The lawsuit also claims the company didn’t add chemicals that make ammonium nitrate harmless because that would cut profits.

“These products should be used for fertilizing crops, not for making bombs,” Cochran said. “When somebody makes money on these products, we think they should be held responsible.”

Joe Brawner, president of ICI, said after the lawsuit was filed Friday that the company had no confirmation its fertilizer was used in the bomb.

He said there are “no known ammonium nitrate additives that could have prevented this unthinkable bombing.”

However, a process developed by chemical consultant Samuel Porter in the late 1960s adds a small amount of diammonium phosphate, another fertilizer, to the ammonium nitrate to make it insensitive to flames and detonation.

John Merritt, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuit, said that ICI had access to test results that show that the method is effective.

But ICI spokesman Neal Mednick said Saturday that Merritt has misinterpreted those tests.

The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount, but attorneys said a jury could award more than $1 billion.

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