The truck driver injured in an explosion at Tacoma’s Atlas foundry Oct. 6 died from his injuries Sunday morning, his family’s attorney said.
Charles “Chuck” McDonald, 64, died about 9:40 a.m., surrounded by his wife of 14 years, Gloria; his daughter, Leeann; and son Charles Jr.
McDonald, who suffered burns over 75 percent of his body, survived for about a week after the mammoth blast and fire but hadn’t communicated with his family.
Attorney John Christensen, who represents the family, said McDonald was in a state of medically induced paralysis and breathing only with the aid of a respirator.
“He had the best team of physicians available, and they tried valiantly,” Christensen said Sunday. “He died from complications from the massive burn injuries. It was in all likelihood connected to kidney failure.”
McDonald, who lived in Toutle, Cowlitz County, was making a routine propane delivery to Atlas Castings & Technology in the Nalley Valley when something went horribly wrong, causing propane gas to escape. Fire officials have said the hose or connection between McDonald’s truck and the larger, stationary tanks suffered a “catastrophic failure” and that the escaping gas was ignited by a furnace in the nearby foundry. That led to the explosion of his 8,000-gallon tanker truck.
Investigators are still trying to sort out what exactly went wrong.
The McDonalds released a statement Sunday that read, “The family is obviously devastated by the loss of their father, husband and friend, but they are all grateful of the love and support that has been shown over the past week by friends and family.
“Arrangements are being made for a memorial service at the Toutle Christian Fellowship Church in Toutle, Wash. The family wants to thank everyone who kept Chuck in their thoughts and prayers over this last week.”
Mike Sullivan, safety director of IXL Transportation Services of Molalla, Ore., where McDonald worked, said, “We’re deeply saddened and only wish the best for his family and friends.”
McDonald’s death doesn’t change his family’s consideration of a lawsuit against Atlas, said Christensen, who’s with the Tacoma firm of Messina Bulzomi Christensen.
“What the family has asked me to do is have someone looking out for his interests on the ground,” he said. “All the other parties have their experts retained.”
Christensen said he plants to visit the blast site today to film and photograph it as part of his investigation.
An Atlas spokesman did not return a call for comment.
Ian Demsky: 253-597-8872