Fatal blast spurs GI widow’s suit
The attorney representing the family of a 27-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier says his death in 2006 at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area was caused by a defective mortar shell that exploded prematurely.
Attorney Ward Brown, of Liberty, Mo., said the death of Staff Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez -- who was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry -- occurred when an 81 mm mortar shell exploded in its launch tube. Rodriguez was supervising a training detail that entailed the firing of two 81 mm mortars.
Brown represents Rodriguez's widow, Stephanie, who now lives in the Kansas City, Mo., area, and the couple's son, Jacob. The family is suing Lockheed Martin Corp., Commonwealth Aluminum Sales Corp. and Alexis International Inc.
The suit says the three companies acquired the liabilities of Martin Marietta Aluminum Sales, the original manufacturer of the mortar weapon system.
In the March 10, 2006, training incident, the mortar shell casing was cracked or there was a malfunction that caused a premature explosion in the mortar tube, Brown said.
Rodriguez died at Hilo Memorial Hospital, where he and the four injured soldiers had been taken by helicopter. The four injured soldiers later were transferred to Tripler Army Medical Center for further treatment.
Also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Sgt. Samuel Oyola-Perez, Pvt. Julius Riggins and Wilfredo Dayandant, whose rank was not given in the lawsuit. Brown said he didn't think the three were still in the Army.
Both Oyola-Perez and Dayandant are from Hawaii, while Riggins lives in California, according to the lawsuit.
At the time of the accident, the Army said four soldiers were injured, but refused to release their names and the extent of their injuries.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Hilo, contends that the mortar shell was "defective and unreasonably dangerous."
Rodriguez was from Beeville, Texas, and enlisted in the Army in 1996. He was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in October 2002. He had served one tour in Iraq.