“I will tell you Koch Industries is definitely responsible for the death of Danielle Smalley” – Bill Caffey, Koch EVP
On August 24, 1996, teenagers Danielle Smalley and Jason Stone were burned alive by a butane leak from a Koch Industries pipeline.
The teens smelled the deadly butane vapor that was spreading through their community. Because their house had no working phone, they took off in a pick-up truck to dial 911 from a neighbor’s. En route, the truck stalled in a fog of the vapor.
Seconds later, when Danielle restarted the truck, the gas ignited in a “huge explosion and horrendous fireball,” a witness said.
The 570-mile-long pipeline transporting liquid butane from Oklahoma to Texas had corroded so badly that pipeline safety expert Edward Ziegler likened it to swiss cheese.
An investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board found that Koch Industries never provided any of the 40-45 families living near the explosion site—including those of the killed teenagers—any safety protocols for an emergency.
The Board concluded that Koch could have protected the pipeline from corrosion if it was properly managed and the necessary inspections were conducted.
The state jury found that Koch Industries acted with malice, at it had been aware of the extreme risks of using the faulty pipeline.
Danielle Smalley’s family used the settlement money to create a foundation in her name dedicated to pipeline safety and public education. While large oil companies like ExxonMobil, BP, and Kinder Morgan accept free services from the foundation, Koch refuses them.