Officials: Safety violations led to fatal mechanic shop fire in Knoxville

Officials: Safety violations led to fatal mechanic shop fire in Knoxville

March 21st, 2017 by Associated Press in Local Regional News

R & L Carriers, a national trucking company with a facility in East Knox County, will pay $16,200 in penalties for serious safety violations that led to an explosion and fire that killed a shop employee. 43-year-old man died 15 hours later Oct. 17, 2016, at Nashville burn unit with second- and third-degree burns over 90-95 percent of his body. The maintenance shop is being rebuilt Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Photo by Michael Patrick/News Sentinel)

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee officials believe a trucking company engaged in serious safety violations prior to an explosion that killed a maintenance shop employee last year in Knox County.

Mechanic Joseph Mack, 43, died from severe burns hours after an explosion inside an R & L Carriers maintenance shop in October 2016, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported (

Before he died in a hospital, Mack told investigators he was investigating a hissing sound when a 55-gallon drum of diesel anti-gel exploded, sending him running from the building while he was still on fire. Two co-workers helped him beat the flames down, but the injuries were too severe.

Months later, fire investigators remain unsure what caused a leaking flammable liquid to explode. Investigators with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration last month said R & L Carriers committed five serious safety violations prior to the fire and called on the company to pay $25,600.

Following a Feb. 27 meeting between the two parties, TOSHA agreed to reduce the number of citations to three. The company is slated to pay $16,200 in penalties by April 1, TOSHA administrator Steve Hawkins said.

R & L Carriers is a global transportation firm based in Wilmington, Ohio. The company didn't return requests for comment.