Iowa Army National Guard Chaplain Capt. Eric Simpson, 31, died Wed., Feb. 10, 2010, of burn injuries sustained in a Tuesday morning chemical accident at his civilian employer, Quality Surface Processing, Schofield, Wis. Two others were also injured in the incident, which apparently involved extremely hot paint-stripping chemicals reacting to metal.
In news reporting by WQOW-TV Eau Claire, Wis., Everest Metro Police Sgt. Mark Klemm characterized the accident this way: "Basically, it strips paint off the metal and they were immersing it in this hot salt bath which is approximately they said 800-900 degrees and somehow when the piece of metal being treated was immersed into the hot salt bath it reacted."
Simpson was assigned to the 334th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), headquartered in Johnston, Iowa. Public messages from family members say that he had planned to report to active duty March 1, and to deploy overseas later this year with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 34th Infantry Division. The 334th BSB is one of 5 battalions comprising the 2/34th BCT. Approximately 500 people, a battalion typically has one chaplain and an assistant to minister to soldiers' spiritual and emotional needs, as well as to advise commanders on moral issues.
Simpson had been a pastor at Evangelical Free Church, Polk City, Iowa, before moving in 2009 with his family to Schoflield. Simpson was a 1997 graduate of Batesville (Ark.) Southside High School; a 2002 graduate of the College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Mo.; and a 2006 graduate of the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Ill.
Simpson is survived by his wife Sarah, his son Micah Benjamin, 4, and his daughter Lydia Beth, 18 mos. Funeral arrangements are pending.