APPLIED FORENSICS by the owner, Frank A Stephenson, P.E., CFC, CFPE

Scaffold collapse, International Airport, Denver, CO. The third story deck on a new parking structure collapsed during a concrete placement operation when the form support scaffolding failed, injuring 6 workers; no fatalities. Primary expert witness. Case went to trial and was decided against a sub-contractor for improper, poorly compacted backfill under scaffolding footers.

 Tunnel cave-in, Interstate 70 westbound highway tunnel near Loveland, CO. Construction company attempting a full-face tunnel excavation using a custom-designed shield entered an area commonly referred to as “squeezing ground” and met with conditions that caused bearing failure of the shield’s rollers; subsequent collapse of heading injured two workers; no fatalities. One of three expert witnesses, oral & written reports, no subsequent legal action.

 Aged reinforced concrete pump pedestal failures and contiguous well heads, both due to seawater intrusion and resulting corrosion of reinforcing steel and well head column piping. Hilo, Hawaii. Primary expert witness, reports, project placed on hold for 22 months. 

Investigation into cargo damage inside two, 45 ft. refrigerated vans converted to house reverse osmosis equipment for mobile water treatment leasing. No allowance was made for trailer floor and frame flexing during transport and therefore damage was caused only during over the highway duty. Primary expert witness, settlement reached.

 Three each recent vertical turbine pump failures, used in power plants and mining operations; list and reports complete with photographs on request.
NOTE: Customer’s name is confidential and redacted from each report.

 Leaking underground storage tank (LUST) in eastern Arizona went unnoticed and contaminated a nearby creek and decorative ponds adjacent homes along the creek banks until the surface of one pond caught fire. Property damage but no injuries. Primary expert witness for ADEQ. Owners were compensated by a combination of private insurance and owner of LUST.

 Cinder block walls in a pineapple cannery and nearby shopping center exploded on two occasions injuring cannery workers and shoppers in a major city on Maui. One of five expert witnesses. Cause traced to methane plume underground migrating from deep well injection practiced by cannery. EPA Region 9 actionable.

 Large diameter PVC pipe failure, major power plant in eastern Arizona; no injuries, but considerable damage to nearby equipment, especially electrical switchgear. Cause traced to insufficient joint welding for environmental conditions prevalent during construction. Primary expert witness for owner.

 Fire pump failure, major furniture warehouse, Phoenix, AZ. No property damage, no injuries; cause traced to improper maintenance procedures that were performed for one hour per month over a 10 year period.

 Repetitive valve seat failure, cement production plant, Mesa, AZ. Butterfly valves with stainless steel discs and rubber seats would seal air-tight for only approximately two weeks, after which they would leak dry cement powder. Cause traced to improper seat bonding material and Q/A at valve manufacturer’s factory in India. One of three expert witnesses.

 Repeating failures of 316 stainless steel drive, 75 HP, high pressure, multi-stage feedwater pump, water treatment plant, Tempe, AZ. Cause traced to unbalanced pressures each side of multi-stage impeller stack. New startup procedure implemented to avoid unbalanced conditions.

Anion ion exchange resin fouling after each regeneration, microelectronics fabrication facility, Pocatello, Idaho.  Cause traced to iron contamination of sodium hydroxide barrels which in turn was caused by band-style heaters causing localized high temperatures within the barrels leading to embrittlement of iron barrel material.


Quantity of materials (structural steel) dispute by contractor against engineer of record. Compiled an as built bill of materials and compared to engineer's estimate. Contractor was correct, 13 tons of structural steel was unaccounted for in engineer's BOM. Settlement was reached "on the courthouse steps."

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