Former Airgas employee Cyrus Coron poses for a portrait in Phoenix, AZ, May 11, 2022.

Blowing the Truck Whistle

A Carbon Dioxide Delivery Driver’s Long Journey to Expose Airgas

Former Airgas employee Cyrus Coron poses for a portrait in Phoenix, AZ, May 11, 2022. Photo: Pablo Robles

Globe, Arizona, is an old mining town in Gila County, about 90 miles east of Phoenix, dotted with canyons and gorges and 33 bridges, most constructed in or before the 1960s. Last July, Cyrus Coron, a thin, bleach-blond man with orange-tinted wraparound sunglasses, was about to pilot his Airgas National Carbonation bulk gas truck onto a particularly skinny overpass, running downhill on an 8 percent grade. As he dropped in, a red light in the shape of an engine lit up on the dashboard, with one word superimposed on it: “STOP.”

When that flashed, drivers knew the truck would soon stall. The problem was a faulty engine sensor that would often trip in winding hills and valleys, forcing a restart of the truck. When Coron and his colleagues would tell the manager of their Airgas branch about the issue, he might schedule an inspection, but would almost never take the truck out of service. The branch had no backup vehicle, and between 30 and 45 deliveries of food-grade carbon dioxide had to be made throughout Arizona every day.

There was no shoulder on the downhill road, and orange cones narrowed the bridge to two lanes, with no space to pull over. After crossing the V-shaped ravine, the road immediately veered to the right and climbed up the other side of the canyon. Coron was traveling at about 55 miles per hour. He figured he needed a working engine for eight more seconds to get over the bridge, make the right turn, and pull off onto the shoulder.

8, 7, 6 —

The stall would kill the power steering; Coron wouldn’t have the physical strength to negotiate that sharp right in a heavy truck.

5, 4, 3 —

He spun the wheel as the turn approached.

2, 1 —

The truck stalled just as Coron reached the shoulder. “If it happened literally one or two seconds earlier, I would not have been able to make that right-hand turn,” he told me over Zoom. “I don’t know if I would have had the physical ability to pull the steering wheel to stay in the lane or if I would have actually entered into oncoming traffic and killed myself.”

He told the story with a flat tone; for Coron, the near-death experience was just another day exposed to risk. Heavy-duty trucking saw the second-most fatalities of any profession in 2020, the last year studied, only narrowly behind construction, a sector with 3 million more workers. With nearly two decades of experience in the industry, Coron was used to being seen as a disposable part.

“People like me, we encounter that shit on a regular basis,” he said. “We have a nihilistic sense of humor about it. And it’s not a good thing. You shouldn’t be accustomed to what is not acceptable.”

What was really not acceptable to Coron was that he and his colleagues had been complaining for months to management about that “STOP” engine light. After reaching a safe spot to wait for a tow truck, Coron fired off an email with a picture of the scene. “Using a driver’s personal safety to test out whether or not the issue has been fixed is reckless,” he wrote.

The engine wasn’t the only problem, Coron said. Years earlier, Coron’s truck failed a pre-trip brake inspection; a copy of the inspection records an “ongoing unaddressed air leak.” When he reported it, the manager instructed him to leave the truck running during deliveries to keep the air pressure in the brakes from falling. At that point, Coron refused to drive the vehicle. Drivers knew it often took that kind of escalation to get a mechanic.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducts 3 million truck inspections annually, and Airgas actually has a pretty good safety record by the agency’s metrics. But with hundreds of millions of truck trips, regulators see just a fraction of what’s on the road. Coron said he was only pulled over for inspection with an Airgas vehicle twice in five years.

“A clean truck does not get inspected,” he told me. “Every weekend, every fucking truck in that yard gets fucking washed and cleaned. The ones that you’ll see with the worst records are the smaller operations that don’t pay for their shit to get cleaned on a regular basis.” In other words, Airgas literally whitewashed its safety issues. To hear Coron tell it, that wasn’t the only example.

Coron has done everything he can to raise attention to the problems at the company, from the inside and outside. Through emails, pictures, recordings of conference calls with upper management, and thousands of delivery tickets, Coron has captured a portrait of serious neglect at Airgas, the largest distributor of packaged gas in the United States, with over 1 million customers.

He also sent filings to three state and federal agencies, according to submissions reviewed by The American Prospect and The Intercept: a regional office of the Food and Drug Administration, the Arizona Department of Agriculture, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. All of his documentation has now been posted on a website,, as Coron goes public with what he has been trying to tell the government for years.

Based on Coron’s information, not only were Airgas National Carbonation employees in Phoenix expected to drive dangerous vehicles, but they were also delivering unknown quantities of gases to customers while being ordered to issue inaccurate delivery tickets and purity tests to cover that up. In Coron’s retelling, these practices violated federal regulations and may have led to customers paying for products they did not receive.

Coron’s allegations were corroborated by another former ANC driver, Jim Bascone. “ANC was grossly understaffed and undertrucked, almost everywhere,” Bascone said in an interview. “That was the underlying issue.”

Though Coron’s evidence focuses mostly on carbon dioxide deliveries in Phoenix, there are several indications of wider problems. In a conference call last September, Eric Page, at the time Airgas’s senior compliance officer and today the chief financial officer for Airgas Safety, told Coron, “We have had conversations at the highest levels of leadership, the highest levels, about this issue [with the truck equipment].” Two top executives, Dennis Harris and Matt Sebuck, were fired in 2020, “because they’re not watching the fundamentals of the business, and that is the repair of the trucks.” But nothing changed, Coron said.

“ANC was grossly understaffed and undertrucked, almost everywhere. That was the underlying issue.”

Airgas spokesperson Kim Menard confirmed that the company investigated some of Coron’s allegations last year and “took appropriate action in response.” Menard said Airgas operates business “in accordance with high standards of professional and ethical conduct” and encourages whistleblowers to come forward with information about improper behavior, including through a confidential hotline. After being told about the allegations in this story, Menard said some of them were new to the company and that it has initiated a new investigation to review the matter. “Any required actions to remedy issues will be promptly implemented,” Menard said.

The situation reflects the uneven power relationship between the roughly 2 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the U.S. and the companies they work for. Truckers who need steady work feel pressure to comply, no matter the repercussions to their safety or to customers. “The driver has the right to say no,” said Thomas Corsi, a professor of logistics at the University of Maryland. “But then the driver can be fired.”

Coron claims that he was retaliated against for trying to bring issues to management’s attention, threatened with more hazardous shifts and written up for disciplinary action. Airgas said it “does not permit any form of retaliation.” For unrelated reasons, Coron’s no longer at Airgas.

The documentary evidence, which spans five years of employment, is meticulously arranged. Coron sees it as his shield. “If I don’t have a record, it’s my word against their word,” he told me. “I’m white trash. I’m not credentialed. I’m a liar until I can prove that I’m not lying.”

Stand Tanks where bulk CO2 is stored.

Stand tanks storing bulk carbon dioxide.

Photo: Pablo Robles

Coron started at Airgas in 2016, after jobs toiling in the oil fields for Halliburton in Wyoming, hauling diesel fuel to copper mines for Sinclair Oil in Utah, and managing hazardous waste disposal for Clean Harbors in Phoenix. For Airgas, he worked out of region W-6, which covered part or all of five states in the Southwest. Though his branch was in Phoenix, his manager supervised remotely from Las Vegas.

The job entailed delivering food-grade carbon dioxide. Restaurants and truck stops and breweries need CO2 for soda and beer, and it’s also used in water treatment, health care, manufacturing, and agriculture (particularly cannabis production). Deliveries were made on demand and often guaranteed to customers within 24 hours. The Phoenix branch had just three drivers and two trucks to pull that off.

Coron expected Airgas to be hyperprofessional. “I thought it would be buttoned up because it’s so damn big,” he said. Airgas was founded in 1982 and formed through over 500 mergers, as it boasts on its website. One division sells gases, another sells welding helmets and MIG guns, another sells saw blades and other construction products, and still another sells safety items like first-aid kits. In 2016, Airgas was purchased by a French conglomerate named Air Liquide, which vies with Linde for the title of the world’s largest industrial gas company. Air Liquide had 23.3 billion euros (about $24.6 billion) in revenues in 2021.

The corporation’s byzantine structure, with numerous divisions and management layers, meant that there were no standard protocols for workers, Coron said. Accounting procedures, software, maintenance rules, and compliance benchmarks were confused and inconsistent.

Coron quickly saw this play out with his CO2 deliveries. On a typical day, drivers were supposed to fill their trucks at a stand tank, which could hold up to 28,000 pounds of gas. They were to test the CO2 for purity and then drive out to service customers. At the delivery sites, they would measure totals in customer tanks through an electronic meter on the truck. They would take pictures of the meter at the beginning and end of delivery, placing those onto a digital ticket that was automatically forwarded to customers, who were charged per pound of CO2.

The problem, Coron explained, is that none of the equipment required to do this job functioned consistently — not the stand tanks, not the truck gauges or meters, and not the testing equipment.

“The meter stopped working,” Coron wrote in an email to his manager, Luis Reyes, on September 23, 2019. “The volume gauge on the truck has never worked.”

Four months later, he emailed again: “This meter is malfunctioning on a daily basis. What will it take to get the parts ordered & installed?”

Then a month later: “Meter stopped working again for the umpteenth time.”

There are dozens of emails like this in Coron’s files: notices from Coron and his Phoenix branch colleague Bascone that the meters (which register how much gas is delivered to a customer) and volume gauges (which record how much gas is left in the truck) were faulty, uncalibrated, inaccurate, or just plain broken.

Last year, Coron took a video of a digital meter display on the truck showing 0 pounds of CO2 released, even as the hose connected from the truck to a tank is hopping, indicating gas moving through it.

The stand tank volume gauge was also broken, often reading as full regardless of the amount inside. (“The Phoenix drivers have been complaining to Luis about this for years,” Coron wrote in an August 2021 email.) One result was that the branch periodically ran out of CO2, because its supplier wouldn’t deliver to the stand tank if it read as full. The only way to find out if it was empty was to run the pump dry and burn it out; replacement pumps cost thousands of dollars.

But inaccurate counts were not limited to Phoenix. Monthly loss reports from 2019 to 2021 show discrepancies of up to 200 percent between the amounts loaded onto trucks and the amounts delivered to customers. One November 2019 report showed an overall net loss of 37.9 percent. That’s well beyond normal boil-off rates in CO2 tanks.

In a separate report in February 2021, a 52,000-pound stand tank in San Diego was listed as being short by 37,450 pounds. A truck in Renton, Washington, with a 7,500-pound capacity was short 17,061 pounds. A separate 7,000-pound truck in Oklahoma City was short 12,584 pounds. “Anything out of the main office was a mess,” Bascone said. “You had someone wearing six hats in charge of inventory.”

In demanding an explanation for these discrepancies, Reyes did not blame the broken equipment. “I understand truck meters need to be calibrated and Stand Tank gauges aren’t correct but I believe some amounts entered … are way off (Driver Error?),” he wrote in an August 2020 email.

“That’s literally corporate America all in one fucking short sentence,” Coron told me. “Broken meter, broken gauge, nothing on the truck works — it’s your fault.”

The roots of the problem were illuminated in an August 2020 message sent to Airgas National Carbonation branches from Hubert Booth, a fleet and compliance manager. “I have received several requests for meters today,” Booth wrote. “New meters are $6,000 to $8,000 depending on how much of the system you replace and the labor.”

Instead of incurring that expense, Booth said, Airgas would repair broken parts — although he noted that some of the meters were so old that the parts “have been discontinued.” Even if the refurbished meters were fixed, they wouldn’t stay fixed; for example, the repaired turbines would “stick” instead of turning as gas is released.

“You would send them back the old meter, they would send back another one more beat up,” Bascone explained. “We got one meter in [that] hadn’t been calibrated in 11 years.”

Attached to Booth’s email were manuals directing drivers how to troubleshoot and fix the meters themselves. But truckers aren’t certified mechanics, and expecting them to fix equipment didn’t work. In reply to Coron’s September 2019 email about the broken meter, Bascone, whose acerbic humor comes through, suggested: “maybe bang it with the orange hammer.” When Reyes directed instead to check the wiring connections, Bascone deadpanned, “I think the hammer is the better way to go.”

With no way to accurately gauge how much CO2 was being dispensed, the Phoenix branch had two options: take the trucks off the road until the meters were fixed or continue to deliver gas while guessing at the amounts. Which decision was made can be seen in over 2,800 delivery tickets from 2017 to 2021, which Coron kept.

All of them are missing the before-and-after meter pictures that confirm how much CO2 was delivered and therefore the amount owed. Some tickets show the meter reading at 0 pounds before delivery and a picture of a logbook after. Some have blank squares where the pictures should be. Coron and Bascone claim that this was a widespread practice and that Airgas would have “tens of thousands” more of these tickets from Phoenix deliveries.

According to them, drivers would make up numbers for the “total quantity delivered” line on the tickets, hypothesizing from past performance. If the meter was running 30 percent off, they would add 30 pounds per 100 to the order. Bascone once joked, “I hold the route sheets up to my forehead and come up with a number.” Reyes told drivers to use the volume gauges on the customer tanks, but they were often busted too.

The mismeasurement meant that thousands of customers were not necessarily getting what they were charged for. It’s impossible to know whether they were being overcharged or undercharged; that depends on how accurate the drivers’ guesses were. Bascone believed that his figures were reasonably accurate. But one ticket, from February 2020, may be instructive. It shows that Airgas delivered 8,022 pounds of CO2 to Alsco, a large laundry services company in Phoenix. That’s impossible: The trucks only carried 7,000 pounds.


An “impossible ticket.”

Obtained by The Intercept

Airgas prices of CO2 were not consistent and depended on contracts struck between sales agents and customers. The gas could be less than $1 per pound or as high as $6. As a dominant supplier of industrial gas, Airgas set the market rates itself.

So an overcharge of 1,022 pounds could translate to less than $1,000 in improper payment or as much as $7,000. With tens of thousands of records over years, that could add up. In his complaint to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Coron estimated customer overpayments in Phoenix at above $500,000.

For the first couple of years, Coron says he received verbal instructions from his manager to estimate delivery tickets. But later on, there are specific instances of the supervisor telling him to do so in writing.

In September 2019, Coron told Reyes that he was “literally making up #’s on deliveries.” Reyes told the drivers to “estimate the amount and take a pic of the [customer] tank if possible.” In March 2020, Reyes said the same thing: “Estimate readings based on prior fills.” In a separate email, he said, “Don’t use the meter readings for now until we figure out how to correct this.” At no time did Reyes instruct drivers not to deliver until problems were fixed. Customers were not informed on delivery tickets that the totals were estimates.

Coron alleges that during a March 2020 phone call, Reyes told him to put his finger in front of the camera lens he used to take pictures of the meters. Many of the delivery tickets going back to 2017 show black or red squares: If the flash was on, the finger over the lens would read as red. “It just looks like a glitch,” Coron said. “So that nobody can be blamed for what’s happening.” Bascone confirmed that “[drivers] just covered up the lens” to finish the delivery ticket.

There’s after-the-fact evidence of this happening in an August 2021 email, in which Reyes tells drivers that the meters were fixed for the time being. “In the future, if the meter goes out, don’t cover the screen when taking a picture of the meter but take a picture of the bulk tank contents gauge before and after a fill and note on the comments that the meter isn’t working properly,” Reyes wrote. (Reyes left the company last fall and could not be reached for comment.)

It was difficult for customers to notice what was going on, Coron explained. Deliveries were often made when businesses were closed, either early in the morning or late at night. Delivery tickets were supposed to be sent electronically to an email on file, but those emails were not regularly updated, and many companies didn’t have emails listed at all, Coron claimed.

Nevertheless, some customers did occasionally complain that their CO2 tanks would run out earlier than expected after a refill. Coron told Eric Page, the Airgas senior compliance officer, on their conference call that he had heard from a couple of customers about this. Page responded unwittingly with a completely different issue, one that Coron says he never saw: “During Covid … some of the bars and restaurants on account were getting billed for the same amount, but they weren’t open, they weren’t using CO2,” Page acknowledged.

The Prospect and The Intercept attempted to contact 70 businesses across Arizona that were listed on the delivery tickets, roughly 2.5 percent of the total Coron supplied. Most of the 11 businesses that responded said they rarely, if ever, saw delivery drivers.

One customer, a Shell gas station in Phoenix, said that Airgas prices had gone up recently and that “we have had a couple of emergency deliveries because we’ve had our gas run out” faster than expected. A Chick-fil-A in Prescott Valley also experienced shortages, overbilling, and underdelivery, to the extent that it found a different CO2 supplier. A McDonald’s in Florence, a Sonic in Phoenix, and a Fuddruckers in Mesa also had CO2 run out suddenly. Another Fuddruckers in Phoenix talked about issues with overbilling and underdelivery, though both Fuddruckers employees chalked it up to internal issues at the restaurant.

An employee at Marco’s Pizza in Flagstaff said they had experienced no problems, but that there wouldn’t be much recourse if they did. Speaking of Airgas, the employee said: “They’re the only game in town.”


A carbon dioxide delivery to a commercial building.

Photo: Cyrus Coron

Coron made other allegations related to federal regulations. For example, from 2019 to 2020, Reyes put Phoenix drivers “on call” for $21 per day, answering outage emails and calling customers to schedule deliveries. If this forced drivers to work during their mandated off-duty rest period, that would violate Department of Transportation hours-of-service rules. “You’re talking about office work, that would be a violation,” said Dale Watkins, a regulatory affairs manager with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “When you’re off duty you’re not supposed to be doing anything.”

In addition, because some of the CO2 that Airgas delivered was used in beverages, it fell under regulation from the Food and Drug Administration. Following the “good manufacturing practice” guidelines for production and distribution, Airgas required food-grade CO2 to be tested for purity before delivery to customers. Drivers were instructed to hook up a Zahm & Nagel testing device as the truck was filled at the stand tank and fill out a form confirming a successful test. Airgas had drivers sign annual forms saying that they were trained to do testing and that they followed all protocols.

But drivers never were given the proper equipment to perform the test, Coron said. Sometimes the Zahm & Nagel kit was not in the truck. And the hose connecting the kit to the truck, an item that costs no more than $9, was lacking. A metal device that attaches to the testing port on the stand tank was also missing, so drivers couldn’t test at the stand tank.

“We were told it was Airgas’s policy to test each load. But it ended there.”

“Phoenix does not and has not tested a single CO2 load on truck #303672 since it arrived in Phoenix,” Coron wrote in an email to superiors in January 2018. “Truck #307243 hasn’t tested a single CO2 load since it arrived in Phoenix. … These are the only trucks we use.”

Bascone backed this up. “We were told it was Airgas’s policy to test each load,” he said. “But it ended there. They didn’t supply the equipment. Nobody was in charge of it.”

In September 2021, a regional operations manager, Vincent Wise, told drivers that a new Zahm & Nagel device would soon be shipped to Phoenix. In the same email, however, he admitted that other parts had not been ordered, meaning tests still could not be conducted. “I ask that you work with the Ops Manager … to see if we can source one,” Wise, himself the operations manager, wrote.

Instead of shutting down deliveries until testing equipment was made available, drivers were instructed to fill out the testing forms anyway, according to Coron. “We always wrote down 99.9 percent [pure], always,” he told me. “If it was less than that then you couldn’t make the delivery.” Bascone said that drivers would just transfer the purity figures from the supplier to the Airgas form.

“Is it acceptable for me to continue not testing bulk CO2 loads & write on the loading document that the test was actually performed and document testing results that don’t actually exist?” Coron asked in a 2018 email. He did not receive an answer, and loads continued to be delivered.

There is no indication that impure CO2 was delivered, nor were there any complaints of illnesses from drinking impure soda.

When Coron told higher-ups at Airgas National Carbonation about this, some were unaware that purity testing was even done on the CO2 loads. “I know that we test shit because I’m the one that tests it,” Coron said. “The people on top literally do not know the fundamentals about the business.”

“The people on top literally do not know the fundamentals about the business.”

The Airgas website touts that its food-grade gases comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act and other purity specifications. It adds that food-grade gas is tested “throughout the supply chain — from production to delivery.”

The FDA food-grade gas recommendations include that “training be provided annually and that manufacturers keep training records.” Those records were kept by the Phoenix branch and were available for review by FDA regional officers during audits. But in a 2018 email to a safety and compliance manager, Coron wrote, “All 3 of us drivers in Phoenix are untrained on the current testing protocol.” So for at least some of his employment, training wasn’t kept up.

Experts were unclear on the specifics of food-grade gas requirements, though Peter Lurie, a former FDA official who is now the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that the internal training records would be key. Lurie said it is always a problem when records reviewed by the FDA are not accurate. “I would think falsifying an attestation that ultimately came into the agency’s hands, that strikes me as criminal activity.”

From his earliest days with Airgas, Coron attempted to get upper management interested in safety and compliance issues in Phoenix. He showed me email exchanges with eight different compliance managers, senior vice presidents, and even the former president of Airgas National Carbonation, Dennis Harris.

In late 2017, Coron approached ANC Vice President Matt Sebuck and ANC safety compliance manager Scott Burgess. Coron was invited to a conference call with Harris and Burgess in early 2018, but after the call, Coron’s 2017 annual review asserted that he had “regress[ed]” over the year and included a number of negative comments. “Cyrus isn’t always content with management decisions on resolving issues. … Cyrus spends too much time writing long emails to management and Customer care. … Cyrus sought immediate resolution with upper management without consulting [Reyes, his supervisor] on several issues.” The review was signed by Reyes and Sebuck.

Coron added that Reyes made verbal threats to fire him, though the company never did so. I asked him why. “Those emails to corporate were crazy fucking detailed,” he responded. “Those weren’t like rando complaints. They knew that I had that.”

Despite the leverage, nothing changed in Phoenix. Years of back-and-forth complaints culminated in a phone call between Coron and Reyes in February 2020, which Coron memorialized in an email. “He gave me the ultimatum, if I did not stop questioning his judgment on safety issues … and ‘complaining’ about overcharging customers … then he would change my shift to a night shift, with the expectation that it would ‘force’ me to ‘quit.’” A night shift job is more dangerous, so Coron kept his mouth shut for a while.

But soon he started writing upper management again. Wise, the regional operations manager and Reyes’s supervisor, responded to specific concerns but never wrote Coron about his broader claims. Sean Eggett, a safety and compliance official, never wrote back. Amber Vanderkooy, vice president of operations at Airgas National Carbonation, never wrote back. Coron actually met with Mike Pelaez, another safety and compliance official, that June, and there were follow-up calls and emails. Pelaez thanked Coron for his feedback and ensured him that it would remain confidential. “This helps, but a quick fix is never quick,” Pelaez said after one email in August, two months after the initial contact.

Around the same time, Reyes and Wise wrote up Coron over allegedly not following safety protocols during a CO2 delivery at a McDonald’s in Chandler, Arizona. An “anonymous source” sent photos of Coron “inside the truck cab” during delivery, they said, with no safety cones around the truck. Coron disputes the characterization; how a random bystander would know to send photos of an Airgas employee in Arizona to a remote manager in Las Vegas was not explained.

Nevertheless, Reyes and Wise insisted that Coron sign a “coaching action form” confirming the write-up. The form was contradictory: It said that Coron acknowledged the failure to comply with protocols yet added, “Your signature does not indicate that you agree with the statement made.” Coron felt trapped. “I needed the job, my wife is in school full time,” he said. “I don’t have the luxury of going two weeks without a paycheck.” He signed the form.

Finally, Coron escalated to Page, Airgas’s senior director of compliance and controls, who got back immediately and promised to start an investigation. Coron gave him access to all of his files, and on September 3, 2021, Coron, Page, and Page’s colleague held an unusually candid hourlong conference call.

Page seemed aware of the meter calibration, inventory, and accounting issues. “There is definitely a sentiment that you’re absolutely right,” he said. “That’s why a couple [senior managers] were fired last year.”

“Dennis Harris and Matt Sebuck?” asked Coron.

“Yeah,” Page confirmed.

Would an isolated problem at one branch bring down such senior officials?

“I guarantee you that this is not just a one-off,” Coron told Page. “You’re only hearing from me because I’m a driver who comes from a highly regulated background where I’ve never seen this before so I’m not cool with it.”

Page did not question that assertion. His message was that management was interested in shaping up the organization. He told Coron that they would finish their investigation and expose it publicly throughout Airgas National Carbonation within the next couple of weeks. “I can tell you that the leadership at National Carbonation, especially the new president,” Page said, “recognize that things were ignored and they’re playing catch-up. They don’t know what’s out there, they’re still uncovering kind of the hidden secrets and the mess. … We’ll get to the bottom of it.”

Page and his colleague asked Coron for emails and files for about three weeks. Coron never heard anything after that.


A carbon dioxide delivery truck.

Photo: Cyrus Coron

Coron also went outside the organization. Last September, he contacted the Denver FDA office that conducts compliance audits for the Phoenix branch. He spoke with Stephanie Chastagner, who confirmed some level of purity testing requirements and told Coron that the office would commence an investigation. The Prospect and The Intercept contacted the office, and FDA spokesperson Stephanie Caccomo replied, “The FDA does not confirm or comment on any potential investigations, per policy. We are not able to provide any information in this case.”

Coron then tried the Arizona Department of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures Services Division. After an initial phone call, he sent them information about the faulty meters and inaccurate deliveries. Associate Director Kevin Allen told The Prospect and The Intercept that the department “attempted to reach out to Airgas to witness a meter test and calibration, however we were unable to coordinate due to COVID-19 protocols.”

Once Coron got back in touch, the department suggested that he contact the consumer fraud division in the state attorney general’s office. Coron filed an online complaint, citing consumer fraud of over $500,000, and followed up with a unit manager in the consumer information section. While the office declined to initiate a criminal investigation, the case was assigned to a special investigator with the consumer section, Richard Perez, whom Coron met with in October 2021, giving him all the files on a thumb drive. Perez promised to follow up, but Coron hasn’t heard from him since last fall.

The attorney general’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

By this time, Coron was on long-term leave from Airgas. He had picked up Covid from a co-worker and went on short-term disability when the symptoms didn’t go away. “Straight up, I had long Covid,” he told me. “I thought it was bogus until I actually had it.” He would get bouts of brain fog, and random parts of his body would suddenly go numb. Combined with the pressures of long workdays and the retaliation he was experiencing, it was too much. “I went to a neurologist,” Coron explained, “and the guy said, ‘You’ve got to get your ass out of a fucking truck, dude.’”

He never returned to Airgas. In January, he got a new job outside the trucking industry.

Although removed from Airgas, Coron wants the public to understand what is happening there and the structures that make corporate wrongdoing widespread. “Because I’m white trash, I don’t like people who expect me to break the law, it makes me really mad,” he told me. He sketched a vision of business school graduates in suits seeking market share, making decisions that push criminality down the ladder.

“I swear to God it’s like a class thing,” he added. “The level of criminality from the college class, they’re taught to be predators. Lazy-ass predators, but predators nonetheless.”

Jeffrey Dewey, Isabelle Gius, and Alex Weatherhead contributed reporting.

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