Huntsville Mom Testifies Before Senate Committee

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Friday, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held its 17th hearing to examining waste, fraud and performance by America's war contractors.

The purpose of this particular hearing was to look into electrocution deaths in Iraq, with a focus on civilian contractors. Contractors who in many cases are and were responsible for electrical work on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The pentagon says 11 American soldiers have died from electrocution while serving in Iraq since September of 2003.

Staff Sergeant Chris Everett, 23, of Huntsville, was one of them. The army says he was killed because the generator powering the tool he was using, was improperly grounded.

On Friday, armed with his picture, his mother Larraine McGee testified before a Senate committee.

"Chris believed he was making a difference in Iraq. Please do not let his death be in vain," said McGee.

The committee is examining practices by Houston-based KBR, a company contracted to perform some of the electrical work in Iraq.

Some former KBR electricians testified that quality complaints to supervisors were ignored.

"Time and time again we heard this is not the states, OSHA doesn't apply here, what do you expect," said Debbie Crawford, a former KBR electrician.

Those KBR electricians said the company often hired contractors with no electrical experience at all.

"When I applied in 2004, the job posting stated a license was required. No one in Houston asked to see my license or checked my job references and no qualification test was given," said Crawford.

At least one soldier testified that she was shocked while serving in Iraq.

"I was told by the other women in my group to use the shower in the other house when I arrived, because they had been shocked in the shower in our house since the time they first moved in when they tried to adjust the temperature of the water," said Rachel McNeill, an army reservist.

The Senators say they hope shedding light on the issue, will bring about answers and accountability.

"You don't understand when an American soldier is killed as a result of sloppy work by a contractor. Not only do you not understand it, it can't be tolerated," said Senator Byron Dorgan.

Republican Congressman Kevin Brady also attended the Democratic Senators' hearing. KBTX spoke with him by phone Friday evening.

He said the Pentagon needs to move now to inspect and correct improperly grounded systems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Congress needs to do its job by insisting we hold accountable whoever was responsible for installing and maintaining that equipment," said Brady.

Both Brady and Senator John Cornyn have written letters to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. They're asking to see what steps the Pentagon is taking to prevent further electrocutions.