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Food Truck Explosion An Eye-Opener For Indy Eaters

Indianapolis has seen a large increase in the number of food truck vendors in recent years. Every Thursday, you can savor tasty items from many businesses participating in Food Truck Friday on Georgia Street in Downtown Indianapolis. On Fridays, the west end of Georgia Street near the Indiana Convention Center is the location of various and sundry vendors prepared to satisfy your culinary cravings, from BBQ to pizza to something more exotic, like curried goat.

Other than a random case of heartburn, did you ever question whether ordering from a food truck was a safety risk? Probably not. But you might be interested to know that in the state of Indiana, food trucks are not required to have fire safety inspections.

And this matters, why?

On Tuesday, July 1, a food truck exploded on a street in Philadelphia, critically burning two women who ran the enterprise and injuring ten others. The tragedy occurred when a propane tank attached to the back of the truck made a loud “BOOM” and went up in flames. Surveillance footage from nearby businesses shows an enormous fireball rising and engulfing both sides of the street. The propane tank soared 95 feet into the air and landed in a nearby yard. A resident of a neighboring house, who had been on his front porch at the time of the explosion, suffered burns and blisters on his arm, neck and ears. A utility pole caught fire; two cars driving by the explosion were briefly engulfed by flames. When the emergency responders arrived, they found people lying in the street, including one woman who was reportedly on fire.

The 100-pound propane tank which exploded was one of two tanks used to supply grills inside the truck. It was not in use at the time, but officials suspect that a significant gas leak occurred, enveloped the truck, and was ignited by the grill.

The food truck owner and her daughter remain in critical condition at Temple University Hospital, each with severe burns covering 40 percent of their bodies. In addition, a 23-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl remain hospitalized, both in stable condition. Seven other people were treated at Philadelphia hospitals and released.

This is not the first incident in which a food truck’s propane tank exploded, causing severe injuries and property damage. In 2011, the propane tank on a New York City food truck exploded after it was involved in a vehicle collision. In 2012, a propane tank exploded on a food truck at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, causing $30,000 in property damage. Last fall, three people were injured when a food truck exploded at a Fresno, CA, high school football game. Investigators found that the Fresno blast was caused when gas escaped from a propane tank inside the truck near an open flame.

A 2012 New York Fire Department study of food trucks found several common fire hazards that could cause explosions, including the presence of multiple propane cylinders, hot fryer oil and grills, compressed gasses, high-voltage electricity, and biohazards from unsafe sanitary conditions.

So why aren’t food trucks subject to safety inspections?

Food trucks are regulated by local ordinances. In Pittsburgh, they have to pass food safety and sanitation guidelines and undergo a yearly vehicle inspection by the state Department of Transportation. But that doesn’t include things like attached propane tanks. Propane tanks have been excluded from local control in Pennsylvania, their regulation now falling under the Labor and Industry Department. Wanna guess how many food trucks have been inspected by that division?

In Indiana, food trucks are considered to be vehicles, not structures. If they are set up as a booth or in a tent, they will be inspected by the local or state fire marshal, but not otherwise. We might, however, see some changes in the wake of the Philly disaster.

If you or your loved one should happen to be involved in a food truck propane explosion in Indianapolis or elsewhere in Indiana, call Mike Stephenson. Mike will explore all avenues of compensation, from the business operator to the manufacturer of the faulty equipment, to win damages that could help your family deal with the tragic consequences of a propane explosion. You can reach Mike at 855-206-2555. With a background of successfully litigating personal injury cases in Indiana since 1981, Mike will be your trusted advisor and compassionate counsel in any circumstance in which negligence has caused you or your loved one harm.