State Dept Contractor Electrocuted in Iraq

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute has a recent piece in The Nation on Another Mysterious Electrocution Death in Iraq.

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Hermanson who was working for State Department contractor, Triple Canopy died on September 1.

Scahill writes: “Earlier this week, Hermanson returned home on a flight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. His body was in a coffin. Hermanson was not killed by enemy fire or an improvised explosive device or even by “friendly fire.” In fact, he died in what is considered to be the safest place in Iraq for Americans–the heavily fortified Green Zone. His body, according to his family, was discovered on the floor of a shower near his quarters at Camp Olympia. It appears that Hermanson was electrocuted.”

“On Tuesday morning, the military medical examiner who performed Hermanson’s autopsy met with Hermanson’s wife, Janine. “He said that everything was still pending and that he can’t make a final [statement] because the toxicology and all that stuff has not come back yet. But he said that [the cause of death] was a low-voltage electrocution,” she told The Nation. “When I got the call I was told that he was found in a shower, and now I am getting told that there was even still electrical current on the shower floor when they found him.

Rewind to July 11, 2008 during the hearing on “Contractor Misconduct and the Electrocution Deaths of American Soldiers in Iraq.” Cheryl Harris, the mother of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth in a prepared statement says:

Since January, I have taken a decided approach to find out what actually happened to my son and why he was electrocuted in his shower at the age of 24. I have learned that my son’s electrocution was the result of the failure to correct a known electrical hazard in a building replete with electrical hazards. Moreover, because of those uncorrected electrical hazards, my son lay in electrified water until he was discovered by a fellow soldier who kicked the door down. There, lying on the ground, was my son’s body, burnt and smoldering. One of the soldiers who attempted to rescue Ryan was himself shocked because the electrical current was still running through the water and pipes in Ryan’s bathroom.

Just last month, a news release dated August 07, 2009, Army Completes Staff Sgt. Maseth Death Investigation (Revision), says that “The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Medical Examiner previously found the cause of Maseth’s death to be electrocution and the manner accidental. The completed Criminal Investigation Command death investigation concurs with those findings.”

The news release also says that “There have been 18 reported deaths due to electrocution in Iraq since March 2003, including 16 service members and two contractors.[…] Since Staff Sgt. Maseth’s death in 2008, there has not been another confirmed electrocution death of a soldier in Iraq.”

Less than a month after the final report was released …

Nobody seems to know who did the wiring at Triple Canopy’s base at Camp Olympia. Scahill reports that Triple Canopy will not comment further until the investigation is complete. The State Department reportedly did not return calls requesting comment.

Read the whole thing here.