(Reuters) – A Texas judge on Thursday acquitted the US arm of French chemical maker Arkema SA and a senior chief of criminal negligence stemming from a 2017 fire that injured 21 people, a verdict that ended all charges against its bosses .  The company's Crosby, Texas, plant became waterlogged and lost power needed to keep organic peroxide chemicals from igniting after Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain in the area. The unattended chemicals were ignited and burned for several days, injuring 21 security workers and forcing residents from their homes.
Arkema Inc. and former plant manager Leslie Comardelle were found not guilty in a sentencing hearing by Judge Belinda Hill on Thursday. On Wednesday, she dismissed an endangered indictment against Arkema's executive director, Richard Rowe, and said prosecutors had not provided enough evidence to support the indictment.
Prosecutors last month separately dropped a criminal assault charge against Arkema and former logistics manager Michael Keough over damages for inhalation of smoke suffered by public security workers assigned to protect the facility.
"It is unfortunate that these ill-founded accusations created years of unnecessary difficulty" for executives, Arkema spokeswoman Janet Smith said in a statement. She said the company had urged rescue workers to use respiratory protection if they could be exposed to the smoke.
The company had maintained the allegations, filed by Harris County officials, were an attempt to criminalize a natural disaster.
"Today's decision by a judge does not change the fact that dangerous chemicals on Arkema's property were ignited and bent in a cloud of toxic fumes over the surrounding communities, and a first responder to protect people is now on a lung transplant list," said Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney & # 39 ;s office.
The trial had resumed last month after being suspended in the spring due to the COVID-1