Earlier this year I introduced the "Bellingham Case", promising to tell it in the coming weeks. Several months have passed, so it may be time to proceed ...
… Nor Frank Hopf Jr., then vice president of the Olympic Pipe Line Company, nor much less just-turned-10-years-old Wade King, Stephen Tsiorvas (also 10) nor Liam Wood (18) knew what the day will bring to them when they woke up on June 10th, 1999.
That day Liam had decided to go fishing in Whatcom Creek, a stream that flowed through Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham (Washington, USA). Meanwhile, younger Wade and Stephen preferred to spend that Spring day playing on the banks of the brook near its confluence with Hannah Creek.
Unfortunately, about 3:28 PM a series of events happened: the pipeline operated by Olympic ruptured because of excessive pressure, spilling gallons and gallons of gasoline into Hannah stream and then Whatcom. Liam was the first to die: gasoline’s fumes overcame him, who drowned while in the creek. Later, fumes also ignited to blast reaching Wade and Stephen, who would die the day after, due to the wounds suffered during the explosion.
Pipeline’s supervision and control systems were not the [only] cause of the accident -lack of maintenance and/or some construction works in the vicinity were more linked reasons- but right SCADA operation could have prevented some fatal consequences as the report by the US National Transportation Safety Board stated after investigation.
But let’s go back to Mr. Hopf. He, along with other two Olympic employees, was charged for the Bellingham events and finally sentenced to prison.
The Bellingham story shows us, once more time, that executives should be held -and sometimes, in fact, they actually seems to be- accountable for the bad use technology receives in their organizations. This is especially relevant when it comes to the industrial landscape, given the high rate of cyber[-physical] risks companies within it are facing nowadays.
Because of that, executives, and professionals in general, should -among other things- take care of what information they make public on the Net in order to prevent revealing critical corporate information via social media, academic papers and the like.
In particular, we opted today for focusing on the aviation ecosystem and how it is embracing best cybersecurity practices.
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