US: Suit blames Halliburton for Missing Contractor's Fate in Iraq

An attorney for the family of a Alabama contractor who disappeared in Iraq during an attack on a convoy a year ago has filed suit in Texas against Halliburton Co., accusing the firm of concealing the dangers of the job from the missing man.
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Associated Press

An attorney for the family of a Mobile contractor who disappeared in Iraq during an attack on a convoy a year ago has filed suit in Texas against Halliburton Co., accusing the firm of concealing the dangers of the job from the missing man.

The company says its workers received extensive safety training.

Timothy Bell of Mobile, who vanished a year ago Saturday after Iraqi insurgents attacked the convoy that included Bell. He was driving a truck as an employee of Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root.

Vincent Howard, a Newport Beach, Calif., lawyer in a firm working for the Bell family, told the Mobile Register in a Saturday story that the suit filed Friday seeks to recover damages for fraud and lies that led to the Bell's death, which has not been confirmed.

Bell's family has insisted that he's alive, but hasn't been found. Bell's family planned to attend a mass of remembrance for him Saturday at Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church.

The suit contends that workers were told they would be safe in Iraq, and that Halliburton and military failed on Good Friday 2004 by sending the fuel convoy to Baghdad International Airport on a route known to be infested with attackers.

Without commenting on the suit, KBR spokeswoman Jennifer Dellinger in a statement said workers receive extensive safety training and that KBR has worked since last spring to increase armor on trucks.

Though the company can refuse missions, Dellinger said that the U.S. military commands the trucks and that people working in Iraq understand the dangers and make conscious decisions to work there in support of the military.

"Our prayers are with the Bell family, and Halliburton and KBR continue to cooperate with authorities and are doing everything possible to assist Mr. Bell's family and friends," Dellinger said. "The U.S. military is responsible for all search and recovery efforts."

Six contractors and two soldiers were killed in the attack. Bell and an Army reservist, Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin of Ohio, remain missing. Maupin was shown being held hostage in a video released after the fight, and the Army lists him as being captured.

The lawsuit alleges that Bell's convoy was a decoy, sent out in camouflage army trucks to draw enemy fighters away from a second convoy.

The lawyers have filed suits on behalf of the surviving family members of at least two other convoy drivers who died that day, Tony Johnson of Riverside, Calif., and Steven Scott Fisher of Virginia Beach, Va.

State court officials in Houston could not confirm the filing of the Bell suit late Friday afternoon. However, they did confirm that a lawsuit on behalf of Ingrid Fisher, Steven Fisher's widow, had been filed Friday against Halliburton, KBR and Service Employees International.

The Johnson lawsuit names that third company as a Cayman Islands affiliate of Halliburton.

Howard said that Bell's family members, including his mother, two sisters and two brothers, didn't want to talk about Bell's status Friday, because the anniversary was dredging up painful memories

"They just want time with the family and time to get through this," Howard said.

There has been evidence in recent months that American forces are actively searching for Bell and Maupin.

The remains of William Bradley, who like Bell was a missing KBR driver, were found in early January near the site of the convoy attack. Bradley's family members said at the time of the discovery that it appeared Bradley had died from wounds suffered in the attack.

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