November 15, 2008. The worst day of my entire life. My worst fear came true, literally. Matt had to work 2nd shift (4pm-12am), and ended up covering someone else's shift - his coworker Rob. It's the end of the month/end of the year push to get the compressors tested and out the door to the customers, and Andy his boss was putting the pressure on. It takes about 4 hours to test each machine. Matt called me around 8pm just as I was getting the kids ready for bed, and I had him say goodnight to them on the phone. I called him back around 9, and told me he was going to be really late because he had to cover for Rob, get the machine they were testing right then finished, and then test another machine before he could leave.
I woke up around 4am and he still wasn't home, and I was *this* close to calling him to see how he was doing, but then I thought maybe he was sleeping in his office instead of driving home too tired, so I didn't want to bother him.
It was about that time that he speed-dialed his boss, or maybe just hit a random number on his phone, which lasted literally 2 seconds. He was found dead in the pipe around 5:50am.
Matt was a test engineer and after the industrial sized compressors were built, his job was to test them to make sure they're working properly and to troubleshoot any problems. There's a room off of the test bay called the Plenum Room, and that is where the air gets sucked into the compressor. Air comes through filtered vents in the floor and gets sucked into a pipe with chicken wire covering the opening that has some gauges on it to measure different things. According to the safety inspector at Cameron, it's typical for people to be in that room when it is operating, even though the air is moving hundreds of miles per hour, and increases exponentially by the inch as you get closer to the pipe. The safety inspector told the police that people don't go in there when it's operating, but with a roomfull of witnesses, he told me exactly the opposite, and I even repeated it for clarification because I couldn't believe they considered that safe. Also, the pipe was 2 feet in circumference, and apparently this was a wider pipe than what they normally use to test the machines. I'd like to know when that pipe was changed, and if Matt was the guinea pig that found out that it wasn't safe for someone to be in there while it was running with that sized pipe. How is chicken wire supposed to protect anyone from getting dangerously close? Matt was extremely intelligent and had good judgment, and never would have put himself in a situation that wasn't safe. He was mislead. Also, he was in there for nearly 2 hours before anyone found him, but the company's first claim is that it was just 15 minutes. Either way, it was too long. There is so much that went wrong that could have been prevented. It makes me sick.
His brothers have a theory that the POS (piece of shit) piece of plywood that was on the foor (so they could roll the pipe for adjustments) was a trip hazard, and when Matt went in the room to check something, he tripped on the plywood and ended up falling into the pipe. Once he got too close, it was too late. He broke his left arm in there, and was lodged from his neck to his waist. He probably couldn't breathe because of the force of the air. He tried dialing with his right hand (since he kept his phone clipped on the right side of his pants), but the air sucked the phone out of his hand. His head was up against the lip of the pipe. I can only pray that it was quick, but I can't help but see the fear in his face. My poor love.
The Plenum Room. Doesn't it sound like a title for a horror movie? It IS a horror, and it's real. My brother in law called it The Plenum Chamber. This room is a dump - it looks like someone's garage. Plywood windows, chicken wire hanging on the walls, etc. I would expect more from a multi-billion dollar company. Apparently OSHA has never once been in there.
Not only was the police detective told that no one goes in that room when the machine is operating, but no one told him about the new, wider pipe. Does that raise a red flag to you? OSHA didn't know that, either.
My husband did not have to die. This was a series of events that could have all been prevented. He was supposed to be in bed with me.
A police officer came to my door around 7:30am on Saturday morning to tell me my husband was killed. I knew before he even told me that something horrible happened, but I just prayed that they had it wrong, that it was someone else, that they made some horrible mistake. My 4 year old son was with me when he told me, as my 18 month old daughter slept in her crib.
I've always had this, what I considered an irrational fear, that a police officer would come to my door to tell me something happened to Matt, but I always thought it would be that he was too tired driving home and that he got into an accident. I never would have thought this would have happened at work. I thought they'd keep him safe. I never thought it would be this soon. I invisioned us growing old together and after raising our children and enjoying our grandchildren, that we would be in our 80's and he would die, and then I would die 3 days after him of a broken heart.
It's a blessing we have these two beautiful children who are completely dependent on me, or I would have jumped in that machine after him. He was the love of my life. He was a phenomenal father. He was an incredible husband who always made the effort to work on the things I complained about in our relationship, which wasn't much. He worked his ass off for everything we have. He went to college for NINE years at night and worked full time to get his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at Buffalo State College, and finally graduated in May of 2007 with his degree. He got this awesome job in his field almost right away, and life was going to get a little easier after he got back onto first shift after Cameron hired someone for his 2nd shift position. They made an offer to someone who turned it down, and Matt said that they weren't in any hurry to make an offer to anyone else at that point. You know why? Because Matt is a superstar employee and can do the job of two people. This fucking company that made over a billion dollars the past year can't cough up the money to hire another engineer because why would they need to when they have Matt?
Now I have to raise my children alone. With all the dead beat dads out there, WHY did mine have to go? He was everything to us. He was my knight in shining armor. He lit up the room when he entered. He was 6'4'', tall dark and handsome with an incredible smile - complete with dimples that melted my heart. We were still so much in love - even after being together for 10 years. We've been married for 6 years, and he wanted us to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon on our 10th anniversary because we didn't go on a honeymoon when we got married. It was either have a nice wedding and forego the honeymoon, and start our family sooner or go on a honeymoon. Our parents were starting to get up there in age, and so we decided to start our family sooner. Thank God.
I had to explain to my sweet little boy that his daddy died. He's only 4 1/2. He understands what is happening and seems to be dealing pretty well considering. A few days before the accident, Jacob asked me out of the blue, "Mommy, where does God live?" and I told him that He lives in heaven, but He's all around us and in everything. When Matt died, I couldn't imagine how I was going to explain this to him, and then I thought of our conversation. I told him that Daddy is now living with God in heaven, but he is still all around us and in our hearts. He knows that he died in a very bad accident at work. He's asked some very tough questions since and I'm just praying that I'm doing this right. I asked the funeral director if Jacob should go to the viewing, and he said absolutely. I'm glad I brought the kids, but I had no idea what to expect. Jacob did better than I thought, but asked why daddy isn't opening his eyes.
Sydney was Daddy's little girl - just 18 months... Matt could change her diaper, etc. without her fussing, but as soon as I do it, all hell breaks loose. She's finally stopped looking around the house for him. For about 4 days, she wandered around looking for him, crying inconsolably. I don't wish any of this on my worst enemy.
I am blessed to have such a wonderful support system in my family and friends, though. God only knows where I would be without them.
Right now, I'm numb. I don't want to let myself feel completely because it is the most excruciating pain I've ever felt in my life. My guts feel like they're being ripped out of my body. So for now, I don't want to feel. The numbness is allowing me to do what I need to do to get through for now, and to be what I need to be for my children.