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Wal-Mart fined $7,000 in post-Thanksgiving stampede

The crush of eager shoppers that left a worker dead and 11 other people injured could have been prevented, OSHA finds in citing the retailer.

May 27, 2009|Associated Press

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — The death of a temporary employee who was crushed in a stampede of post-Thanksgiving shoppers at a Wal-Mart store could have been prevented, federal officials said Tuesday as they proposed fining the world's largest retailer $7,000 -- as much as it makes in about 18 seconds.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it was citing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management after the Nov. 28 death of Jdimytai Damour at a Long Island store.

The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Damour had been on the job about a week when a crowd estimated at 2,000 broke down the store's doors in search of predawn bargains, trapping him in a vestibule. Damour, 34, died of asphyxiation. Eleven other people, including a pregnant woman, were injured.

"Effective planning and crowd management could have prevented this incident and its grave consequences," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. The retailer has 15 days to respond to the allegations.

The maximum fine allowed is $7,000, OSHA said. The agency said it issues such serious citations when "death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known."

Daphne Moore, a spokeswoman for the retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., said in a statement that Wal-Mart has "never had a tragedy like this occur in our stores, and we never want it to happen again."

The company disagrees with the type of citation issued, she said.

"There is no OSHA or retail industry guidance that would have alerted us to this type of unforeseeable hazard," Moore said. "We expect to resolve this matter in a constructive manner that fosters the safety and well-being of our associates."

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