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Scientist Fined $100 in Lab Blast That Killed 2

Times Staff Writer

A retired scientist has been fined $100 and sentenced to one year of probation for his role in a deadly 1994 explosion at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Chatsworth.

The sentencing of Edgar R. Wilson, 67, of Chatsworth ends nearly a decade of criminal investigation into the deaths of two other scientists, Otto K. Heiney, 52, of Chatsworth and Larry A. Pugh, 51, of Thousand Oaks.

Wilson and Joseph E. Flanagan, the former director of Rocketdyne’s Chemical Technology Group, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors after a jury deadlocked last year on more serious charges.

Wilson was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin, who presided over the four-month trial.

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Flanagan, 63, of Stanwood, Wash., and another co-defendant, James F. Weber, 54, of Moorpark were each fined $5,000 and sentenced to one year of probation. Weber pleaded guilty before trial.

A federal grand jury in April 1999 indicted Flanagan and his two subordinates on felony violations of the Federal Resources Conservation and Recovery Act. No one was directly charged with the deaths.

Prosecutors said the scientists were illegally burning waste at the test site on July 26, 1994, when the chemicals exploded. Heiney and Pugh were killed instantly and a third worker was burned.

Although Flanagan was not at the lab when the blast occurred, prosecutors said he supervised the workers and knew about the illegal burnings.

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The defendants argued in court that they believed Heiney and Pugh were conducting legitimate scientific research when they were killed. Wilson, Flanagan and Weber pleaded guilty to a lesser crime of illegally storing explosive materials.


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