Explosions arising from natural gas, propane, and petroleum-based fumes can be devastating, resulting in widespread destruction, deaths, and severe injuries. In the United States, the worst natural gas explosion in history occurred at a school in New London, Texas, on March 18, 1937. The blast killed nearly 300 children and teachers.
Thirty years earlier, explosions in two Monongah, West Virginia, mines took the lives of 362 workers in our country’s deadliest mining disaster. While no one knows for sure what caused the explosions, methane gas is a likely culprit because it often causes mines to blow up. Methane is a petroleum-based gas.
Focus on Natural Gas
When an explosion occurs out of the blue, natural gas is a likely culprit. Such blasts are not infrequent, and when they take place they can produce horrible burns, serious internal and external injuries, and death. Often these explosions are the result of pipeline problems—leaks, breaks, lines hit or struck, and improper gas hookups. In the United States, we have 2.1 million miles of gas distribution pipelines. We also have more than 300,000 miles of transmission pipelines that carry natural gas both intrastate and across state lines.
Natural gas blasts can also happen when a tanker truck or a freight train carrying LNG (liquefied natural gas) crashes. LNG is natural gas that has been cooled until it becomes liquid. Our nation uses a lot of natural gas; it’s estimated that more than 68 million residences and more than 5 million commercial operations use natural gas. Any place where natural gas is transported, distributed, or utilized is a location with the potential for a gas explosion.
Negligent actions cause some gas explosions. Examples of careless handling of gas include substandard pipeline maintenance, striking or breaking a pipeline (often while excavating), improper installation or connection of gas lines to home heating systems and appliances, and defective products that use gas. Gas explosions caused by negligence are usually legally actionable.
Examples of Residential Calamities
Gas explosions in our homes can be caused by a variety of situations. Some examples include:
- Gas lines, including local distribution pipelines for natural gas, that break, leak, or are struck during excavation
- Natural gas lines coming into our homes that are defective or improperly connected
- Propane tanks for a cooking grill that are defective or improperly connected.
We are no stranger to gas explosions in Indiana. A New Albany home was destroyed in September, 2017, when a propane supply line running from the tank to the furnace failed. Fortunately, no one was injured. Also, again in New Albany, a 2011 natural gas explosion demolished a home and injured five people. As a result, Vectren Corporation agreed to pay a $75,000 fine and to change its procedures.
Nationally, there is no shortage of catastrophic gas explosions:
- February, 2018: Leaks in a northwest Dallas, Texas, neighborhood blew up a home, killing a 12-year-old girl. The gas company, Atmos, is also believed to be responsible for an April 2018 house explosion that severely burned a man.
- August, 2016: A natural gas leak in Silver Spring, Maryland, blew up a four-floor apartment building, killing seven people.
- May, 2016: A natural gas transmission line 30 inches in diameter exploded in Salem Township, Pennsylvania. The closest home was consumed by fire and the man inside the house was severely burned.
- March, 2014: A natural gas leak caused an explosion that killed eight people, injured over 60 more, and destroyed two townhomes in the East Harlem section of New York City.
Workplace Explosion Examples
Gas explosions at work can also cause injuries and fatalities. Any location that processes petroleum (such as a refinery) or works with petrochemicals can sustain a gas blast. If a supervisor, employer, or company does not enforce safety regulations or does not maintain equipment, they could be held responsible for any resulting injuries or fatalities.
Some examples of workplace explosions are:
- You are working in an excavation area and an underground gas line is struck, igniting and exploding.
- You are repairing a gas leak in a building when the leaking gas causes an explosion.
- You are working in a refinery or manufacturing plant when a tank explodes during routine maintenance.
Real-life gas explosions happen to workers who hold many different types of jobs:
- February, 2018: In Michigan City, Indiana, the owner of an automotive repair shop was using a welding torch when a nearby oil drum exploded. He suffered serious burns and was transferred to a burn center. It’s been demonstrated that the fumes inside empty or nearly-empty oil drums can explode unexpectedly.
- May, 2017: One worker died and two suffered injuries when a tank exploded near Mead, Colorado. The workers were changing lines that serviced the tank. (The state of Colorado experienced a number of gas explosions, injuries, and deaths during 2017.)
- October, 2016: Two workers were injured when a gas blast demolished two townhomes in Romeoville, Illinois. The seriously injured worker was buried under a roof.
If you are injured at work, you are eligible for worker’s compensation, but you may also seek damages for medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, permanent disability, and pain and suffering if negligence was involved. If you are killed, your family can pursue a wrongful death case.
Injuries Caused by Gas Explosions
Catastrophic gas explosions always carry the risk of death and life-threatening burns. But explosions of any type can damage the human body in ways you may never have imagined. In an explosion, the concussive force of the air on your body can cause . . .
- Loss of hearing
- Lung injuries, including blast lung injury (often fatal)
- Internal organ injuries
- Compartment syndrome (increased pressure in an arm or leg muscle)
Other injuries you can suffer either from being knocked off your feet by the blast or being struck by flying objects include:
- Concussion/traumatic brain injury
- Loss of eyesight
- Crush injuries
- Serious lacerations and contusions
Who Can Be Found Liable?
Anytime that recklessness or negligence contributes to injury or death, the party who can be proved to have been negligent can be found liable. With gas explosions, some of the negligent parties can be:
- Natural gas provider
- Propane gas provider
- Installation company/gas fitter
- Pipelaying company/pipelayer
- Component or product manufacturer
- Maintenance provider
- City, county or state
After an explosion, where it is possible, any evidence that might contribute to your case should be secured. If you believe negligence caused your injuries or the injuries or death of a loved one, it would be wise to seek expert legal counsel as soon as possible.
What is your next step toward justice?
Personal injury claims can be costly to pursue, and many law firms are not in a position to effectively reach a resolution in these cases. You can be assured that our investigative team at McNeely Stephenson goes to work immediately to uncover the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ of any catastrophic injury case. We are committed to bringing together the most qualified experts available to uncover what happened.
Both Mike Stephenson, with his more than three decades of experience, and Brady Rife, with his diverse experience in personal injury litigation, will commit to the highest standards of client care in your case. As you contemplate filing a personal injury lawsuit, keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations – or a deadline – for filing personal injury claims, so it is unwise to delay. Don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to put your life back on track and to make your family’s future financially secure. We offer free consultations, so please call us today or use our confidential online contact form.