What Killed Joao Rodrigues?
The NTSB has released
initial findings on the death of an aircraft fueler at Denver
International Airport two years ago, as he was tanking up a
The report sheds new light on the death of 24-year old Joao
Rodrigues, an employee of ground contractor Aviation Service
International Group. Rodrigues was pumping fuel from a hydrant
truck connected to a buried fuel line.
The NTSB suggests the angle of the nozzle in the wing fuel port
of the 777 was so extreme that it unduly stressed the port
structure itself. The NTSB said evidence suggests "that a
significant angular force was applied to the refueling nozzle."
Another ground-crew member watching the refueling operation that
day saw the fuel hose "separate from the airplane and flap around,
'violently spraying fuel in all directions,"' according to the NTSB
report. "A pilot standing nearby said that a large ball of fire
enveloped the hydrant dispenser truck and much of the airplane's
left wing," and he then saw the fueler, on fire, "fly off the
truck," the report said.
The high wing on the
777, and the added challenges it poses in the fueling process, may
have contributed to the accident. The wing on the Boeing plane is
17 feet, 6 inches high, "the highest in the commercial airline
fleet," the safety board said.
"Whenever you have a higher wing, it requires more precision in
performing the (fueling) task," said James Struhsaker, a
Denver-based NTSB official and principal investigator on the DIA
Boeing may come up with new recommendations for 777 fueling
after the NTSB determines a "probable cause" in the accident, said
spokeswoman Liz Verdier. At least 449 Boeing 777s, one of the most
technically advanced planes in the world, have been delivered to
airlines and aircraft leasing companies around the world.