Lawsuit following fatal Norfolk explosion settles

On July 30, 2012, a Norfolk, Massachusetts, man lost his life and several others were injured in a propane gas explosion at a condominium that was under construction. The man was doing electrical work when the explosion occurred, and he was trapped under burning debris for 97 minutes before being rescued.

The man suffered severe burn injuries on more than 80 percent of his body, and died as a result of those injuries later the same day. After an investigation, the man’s family brought a wrongful death lawsuit against parties they alleged were responsible for the explosion. The lawsuit was recently settled for a reported $7.5 million.

The family of the 46-year-old, who was an employee of Deno Electric of Franklin, charged that negligence on behalf of EnergyUSA Propane and Smolinsky Brothers Plumbing and Heating was responsible for the explosion.

The family’s lawsuit said that EnergyUSA was negligent by under-filling a new propane tank at the condominium site. It said that caused the chemical odorant that had been added to the propane to fade, making the leaking propane gas undetectable to the workers at the job site.

The lawsuit stated that Smolinsky Bothers Plumbing and Heating was also negligent by failing to tighten a connection to the furnace, which caused the undetectable propane gas leakage and led to the subsequent explosion.

The explosion occurred at about 12:30 p.m., and emergency workers were quickly called to the scene. The Norfolk fire chief said rescue workers “struggled for about an hour and a half” to save the 46-year-old, who was trapped in the basement where he had been working. Two firefighters, four construction workers and a condominium resident were all injured in the explosion as well.

In the wake of the tragedy, the Massachusetts state fire marshal has launched a national effort to improve safety regulations in the propane industry. It is expected the new regulations will be introduced this fall in Massachusetts, which will provide better safety training for propane delivery workers.

Source: Wicked Local Franklin, “Family of 2010 Norfolk propane explosion victim settles,” Heather McCarron, July 10, 2012