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Texas oil refinery 'dangerous' says lawyer for worker killed in fire

Daughter of refinery worker killed in Marathon Petroleum fire Alyssa Higgins and attorney Tony Buzbee in Houston

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) -An attorney representing the family of a 55-year-old Marathon Petroleum refinery worker killed in a fire at the Texas facility this week called the plant where he worked "dangerous" on Friday.

Scott Higgins died in a fire when a seal on a pump, near where he was performing maintenance at Marathon's Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, ruptured and created a blaze that engulfed him in flames.

"He was burned to death at the plant," said attorney Tony Buzbee at a media briefing on Friday where he alleged safety conditions at the second-largest U.S. oil refining complex have not improved in a decade.

Higgins' family plans to file a gross negligence lawsuit against the oil refiner and other firms involved in the plant's maintenance, he said. Buzbee is seeking documents on the plant and maintenance, according to court filings.

"Marathon, due to negligence and disregard for the well-being of everything but their bottom line has devastated me and my family," said Alyssa Higgins, a daughter of the deceased worker.

A Marathon spokesperson said the company is committed to determining the cause of the incident and has invested more than $1 billion on safety and regulatory upgrades since acquiring the facility.

"Our OSHA recordable incident rate (ORIR) is better than the industry average. We remain committed to continuous improvement in all aspects of safety, and our goal is to eliminate injuries at our site," a spokesman said in a statement. "The safety of our workers and the community remain paramount."

The company said this week it launched an investigation into the blaze but has not released any findings.

"Scott always thought he might die at that plant," Buzbee said. "He had talked to his daughters about it and his family many times. And the reason he talked to them about it is because that plant is very dangerous," Buzbee said.

"This wasn't an unfortunate catastrophe," Buzbee said.

The facility has had a history of accidents under Marathon's ownership since 2013 and under its previous owner, BP Plc, records show. A worker at the same plant was killed after he was electrocuted earlier this year, and in 2005, a vapor cloud released from an overflowing processing unit exploded, killing 15 contract workers and injuring 180 others.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Jacqueline Wong)