California trucking company owner, employees charged for fatal tanker explosion

 

On April 5, Carl Johansson; Enrique Garcia; Donald Spicer; National Distribution Services Inc., Corona, Calif.; and Wholesale Distribution Inc., Corona; were indicted on charges related to a fatal explosion that occurred on May 6, 2014. In that incident a National Distribution Services welder was dismembered and killed and another welder seriously injured after a cargo tanker exploded.

According to an affidavit from a U.S. Department of Transportation special agent, National was not a cargo tank shop or repair facility registered with the DOT. Per federal regulations, cargo tank repairs are to be conducted only by a manufacturer or repair facility holding a National Board Certificate of Authorization “R” Stamp or a valid American Society of Mechanical Engineers “U” Stamp.

Johansson was the owner of National and Wholesale where he supervised Garcia, the shop manager at both companies as well. Garcia ordered at least two employees he supervised to conduct welding repairs that would eventually cause the explosion. Spicer was the safety manager at National and Wholesale Distribution.

After the May 2014 fatal explosion, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued National an emergency out-of-service order. Approximately 42 tankers were prohibited from operating.

National unsuccessfully challenged the OOS order. Despite the unsuccessful challenge, National allegedly continued to operate some of the 42 banned tankers in early 2015 by creating a chameleon carrier by the name of Wholesale Distribution. The reincarnated carrier had most of the same management and employees as National.

Johansson allegedly tried to mask his involvement with either company by claiming he was just a temp worker pushing papers. However, business documents had him listed as the president, secretary, treasurer and director of National. Johansson also created shell companies to suggest that the two welders were employed by a company called TankServices LLC. This and other shell companies were also used to avoid paying income taxes, court documents reveal.

In another incident in December 2015, Johansson responded to a Wholesale tanker fire. During that incident, Johansson identified himself as the owner of the company.

Spicer was the one who filed FMCSA Form MCSA-1, which indicated that Wholesale was not a reincarnation of a previous company.

The special agent’s affidavit indicates this is not Johansson’s first brush with the law. In 1993, Johansson owned a company called Atlas Carrier. In a similar incident, an Atlas welder was killed while working inside a cargo tanker. Atlas also did business under the name Ash Transportation, another Johansson-owned business. At the time of the incident, Ash had applied for its “R” stamp but had yet to receive the certification.

Johansson and an Atlas manager were indicted on charges in June 1998. Johansson pleaded guilty to three of five counts. He was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment and two years supervised release. Later, Johansson started a company called Systems Logistics.

In 2012, National was involved in a separate tanker explosion caused by a welder doing illegal repairs. The explosion blew the dome lid on top of the tank into ceiling, causing a hole in the roof.