For many of us, the current government shutdown is a terrible annoyance. A political logjam that strikes ideological nerves. But for some, it’s much more personal. Take for example the families of fallen American soldiers who did not receive death benefits from the Department of Defense due to the shutdown. The Pentagon had to make a deal with Fisher House, a nonprofit charity that assists military families, to begin paying the survivor benefits until the government can resume the payments.
And this is just one of the many unexpected and appalling consequences that the current political impasse has wrought. Those of us whose only noticeable contact with the federal government involves paying taxes just don’t realize how much the federal government affects our daily lives. That is, until the federal government stops working.
Believe it or not, the welding industry has also experienced an unintended and tragic incident stemming from the current political shenanigans. Harold Ingram, a 41 year-old welder from Richmond Virginia, died after suffering injuries while working on the Red line of the Washington D.C. Metro rail system. Two other workers were hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
No, the federal government did not cause the accident, but if the fatality weren’t tragic enough, the National Transportation Safety Board said it will not investigate because of the federal government shutdown. In a statement posted on its website, the safety board said that “due to a lapse in funding … the agency can only engage in those activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or for the protection of property.”
According to the Transit agency officials investigating the cause of the accident, the crew of three was performing rail renewal. This involved removing old sections of rail, installing new sections of rail and related activity such as welding and grinding. A short time after midnight on Sunday, October 6, a fire and a loud noise came from an area about 70 to 80 feet from the crew near some heavy track equipment used to weld rail sections together. The incident caused a 40-foot section of rail to move and strike the workers, but it is still unknown what caused the fire or what caused the rail to move.
And it will remain unknown until the government gets back to business…