HOUSTON (CN) – The widow of a sheriff’s deputy claims in court that ExxonMobil and a public water district failed to warn about dangerous currents in a canal to a refinery, and her husband drowned when the water pushed him through a culvert.
Eddie Wotipka’s widow, Karen, and their three children sued ExxonMobil and the San Jacinto River Authority in Harris County Court.
“On or about June 10, 2010, Eddie Wotipka was a deputy sheriff with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. While on duty, Deputy Wotipka either fell or jumped into a fresh water canal allegedly owned by the defendant San Jacinto River Authority,” according to the complaint. “This canal services the Exxon Mobil refinery located in Harris County, Texas.
“Unbeknownst to Deputy Wotipka, pumps were turned on at the request of defendant Exxon Mobil.”
Karen Wotipka says the pumps caused a “dangerous, hidden condition” in which the surface water looked calm but a swift current ran beneath.
“The swift water caused Deputy Wotipka to be pulled under the water in the canal,” the complaint states. “Karen Wotipka saw her husband’s dangerous situation and jumped into the canal to assist her husband; however, Mrs. Wotipka was immediately pulled under and almost drowned prior to being rescued.
“Deputy Wotipka, after being pulled underwater, was propelled through a culvert which went under a roadway, causing his death.
“Defendants knew or should have known about the dangerous condition caused by turning on the pumps.”
The Wotipkas seek damages for negligence and wrongful death.
They are represented by Michael McGown with Benckenstein, Norvell and Nathan, of Beaumont.