Menu

Politics

Elections

Iraq Military Officer Says He Was Electrocuted in Shower

WASHINGTON -- An Army military police officer says he was knocked unconscious and severely burned by an electric shock in a shower trailer in Iraq that was installed by the same contractor an Army criminal investigation has pegged in an electrocution death.

Pfc. Justin Shults, 21, said Monday that he suffered his injuries last October in a shower trailer that KBR Inc. had delivered to his unit. Shults, who is recovering in an outpatient unit at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, said in a telephone interview he has burns on his limbs and groin.

Shults said he turned on the water and, finding it still too cold in the shower, adjusted a wall heating and air conditioner unit. He was knocked out by an extreme electric shock, he said, and was taken for medical treatment by other soldiers who noticed severe burns on his leg.

"It was red and parts of it were bleeding out," said Shults, who is from Hamburg, Pa.

The incident was first reported Monday by the San Antonio Express-News.

The circumstances of Shults' injuries are similar to those that led to the death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, a Green Beret from Pittsburgh who was electrocuted in January 2008 while showering in his barracks in Baghdad.

Last week, The Associated Press reported that Maseth's death, initially considered accidental, has now been classified as "negligent homicide" caused by KBR and two of its supervisors. An Army investigator said the contractor failed to ensure that "qualified electricians and plumbers" did the work. The investigation is currently under legal review by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va.

An Army spokesman did not immediately respond to questions related to the incident.

Heather Browne, a spokeswoman with Houston-based KBR, said in an e-mail on Monday that KBR is not familiar with the incident involving Shults. She said the company is committed to safety and "has and will continue to cooperate fully with the government to promote electrical safety in Iraq."

Shults said he knew the shower trailer where he was injured was from KBR because he talked to workers who delivered it a few months earlier, and they were wearing KBR uniforms. Shults, who was serving with the 411th Military Police Company, based at Fort Hood, Texas, in Tarmiyah, Iraq, said the soldiers had had limited shower access, so it was a happy occasion when the shower trailer was delivered.

Shults, who plans to remain in the Army, said he blames KBR for what happened.

"We have to worry about getting blown up by IEDs ... and getting in gun fights and everything," Shults said. "You don't expect to get burned from a shower trailer."

Besides Maseth, the Army has said that at least one other soldier died by electrocution while showering in Iraq. The Army has said it has deemed 14 deaths of U.S. soldiers as electrocutions, and is investigating two others as such. In eight of the cases, the soldiers made contact with power lines, but improper grounding of wires had been determined as a major cause in the other deaths, the Army has said.

In September, Gen. David Petraeus, who was then the top commander in Iraq, wrote in a letter to Sen. Bob Casey that an electrical code was being created. He also said 86,000 facilities were being inspected, but that it would be 2009 before all repairs and improvements are made. The letter was released by Casey's office.

Casey and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., scheduled a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday to discuss the investigation into Maseth's death.