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Contractor Blamed for Sergeant’s Death in Iraq

PITTSBURGH (CN) - A Pentagon contractor's shoddy wiring killed a staff sergeant in Iraq as he took a shower, his family says in Federal Court. Pittsburgh native Ryan Maseth, 24, died on Jan. 2, 2008 when an ungrounded electric water pump short-circuited, and a Pentagon investigation blamed Washington Group International, now known as URS Corporation, his parents say.

Maseth's parents said they supported his decision to join the military and knew he might not return from Iraq, but his mother told a local newspaper, "You don't expect your son to step into a shower and get killed."

When the ungrounded pump short-circuited, the electricity traveled "though the pipes, shower head, coils and water" and caused "the water itself [to be] electrified," according to the complaint. Maseth suffered a heart attack and died on the shower floor.

His parents say the water tank, pump and system at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex military base were not properly. The Pentagon investigation reported that Washington Group International, which recently was acquired by URS Corporation, failed to meet standards of the National Electric Code and "performed electrical repairs that perpetuated electrical hazards," according to the complaint.

Maseth was serving his second deployment to Iraq as an Army Special Forces weapons sergeant. His parents seek damages for wrongful death. They are represented by Patrick Cavanaugh.

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