The 10 Million Dollar Accident

Drunk driving does not pay.
Nor does drunk management.

This happened a while ago, but several Sandia employees insist that it could easily happen again today.

In 2006, a group of Sandia engineers and scientists prepared a rocket for launch on Kodiak Island in Alaska. After several days of work and a 7:00 am successful launch, they celebrated at a lodge near the launch site. That afternoon, three Sandians decided they wanted a bonfire, so they jumped into a GSA Jeep Cherokee and drove on the beach looking for firewood. The jeep got stuck and they had to walk back, passing a large sinkhole about 6 ft. deep and 12 ft. wide.

They planned to retrieve the jeep the next day, but their manager insisted they get it that night after dark. Three employees took another GSA vehicle out to rescue the Jeep. But they drove into the sink hole. Only the driver was wearing a seat belt – he sustained a broken arm but was able to run back to the lodge for help. The other two were air-lifted to a hospital with disabling, career-ending head and brain injuries.

The Alaskan collision report stated that “alcohol was a factor” because the driver had a .059% blood alcohol level several hours after the accident. The District Attorney filed charges of DUI and Assault in the First Degree, but then dropped them because of the “uniform desire of both victims.” The manager who ordered them out in the pitch black darkness was inebriated at the time, and received “counseling” as an “opportunity for improvement”, according to Sandia senior management. (Why not firing or demotion? Does that ever happen?)

Lump sum Workers’ Comp. settlements were paid to the injured Sandians that amounted to at least $4.3 million. Later, a Department of Defense investigation labelled the accident a “catastrophic event” and “a second degree performance failure that resulted from a breakdown of Sandia Corporation’s Safety Management System”. Sandia’s 2006 management fee was reduced by $6.0 million or 25%.

More details are at the Nuclear Diner.

Pictures at KRQE News

Two careers ended and $10M wasted.
Two careers ended and $10M wasted.