HR Executive Dies in New York Steam Blast

By Staff Report

Jul. 20, 2007

A Pfizer human resources executive, Lois Baumerich, died of a heart attack she suffered when a steam pipe exploded in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, July 18.

Baumerich’s death was the lone fatality of the explosion, which sent tens of thousands of workers scrambling for safety at the height of the evening rush hour and dredged up latent fears of a terrorist attack.

Forty people were hurt during the blast. The most critically injured was Gregory McCullough, a 21-year-old tow truck driver. McCullough was at the intersection of 41st Street and Lexington Avenue when the earth opened up and a geyser of scalding steam erupted more than 150 feet high, flipping his truck and depositing it into the crater left by the explosion. McCullough remains in a coma with burns over 80 percent of his body, according to press reports.

Minutes before the explosion, Baumerich, who was director of employment compliance at Pfizer, was on the phone planning an upcoming conference in New York for the National Industry Liaison Group, an organization promoting workplace equality, according to press reports.

Baumerich, who was 51 and lived by herself in New Jersey, was a board member. She helped found the group, according to its Web site.

Baumerich worked for 28 years at AT&T before retiring in January, a spokesman for the company wrote in an e-mail.

“Our condolences go out to her family, friends and former colleagues,” the spokesman, Michael Coe, wrote.

Baumerich was hired in January to work in Pfizer’s legal division in charge of compliance with affirmative action and equal employment opportunity laws. CEO Jeffrey Kindler sent a memo to employees Thursday morning, July 19, to let employees know about Baumerich’s death and to make counseling available.

“It’s obviously a difficult time for people, particularly in the legal division, who worked with her,” says company spokesman, Bryant Haskins.

Shortly after the blast, Baumerich collapsed as employees fled the area, police said. She was outside Pfizer’s office at 150 East 42nd Street, which abuts Lexington Avenue where the explosion occurred. She died in an ambulance on her way to a nearby hospital, Haskins says.

Her family said she had no prior health issues, according to press reports.

Jeremy Smerd

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