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Senators say KBR culpable for electrocutions
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WASHINGTON - Two senators said Tuesday the Army hasn't acted fast enough to fix electrical problems in Iraq that led to the electrocutions of U.S. troops.

Democratic Sens. Bob Casey from Pennsylvania and Byron Dorgan from North Dakota also said that Houston-based contractor KBR Inc. should be punished in some manner for allowing improper grounding of electrical wires in facilities it was maintaining.

"It shouldn't take years for an investigation to take place before some action is taken to hold that contractor accountable," Casey said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "This is basic contract compliance."

Last week, The Associated Press reported the 2008 death of a soldier, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, of Pittsburgh, which had been classified by an Army investigation as a "negligent homicide" caused by KBR and two of its supervisors. The investigation is currently under legal review by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va.

An Army spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. An Army commander has said an electrical code was being created and wiring inspected in Iraq.

KBR strongly denied the senators' assertions.

"KBR maintains that its investigation has produced no evidence linking KBR to Staff Sergeant Maseth's death," spokeswoman Heather Browne said in a statement. She noted that the investigation into Maseth's death remains open, and KBR will continue to cooperate with it.

Besides Maseth, the Army has said that at least one other soldier died by electrocution while showering in Iraq. The Army has said it has deemed 14 deaths of U.S. soldiers as electrocutions, and is investigating two others as such. In eight of the cases, the soldiers made contact with power lines, but improper grounding of wires had been determined as a major cause in the other deaths, the Army has said.

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