A family in suburban Dallas recently filed a lawsuit against Atmos Energy, a utility provider, over an explosion that sent a child to the hospital and destroyed their family hone. Two days after the explosion, which occurred on December 21, 2013, Atmos Energy confirmed that it was caused by a natural gas rupture. Environmental contamination lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm take a closer look at this case and how to avoid a similar tragedy.
The Reinoshek family was gathered together to celebrate Christmas last year, all staying in a home in North Richland Hills, Texas. Around four p.m., and eight-year-old girl went into the guest bathroom and turned on the light. This triggered an explosion so large it completely destroyed the home, shattering the windows and lifting the roof off the structure.
The little girl was trapped between the bathroom door and floor, engulfed in flames and unable to move. Her aunt was able to extinguish the flames before emergency responders arrived to free her, although she still needed to be hospitalized with second-degree burns covering at least 40% of her body.
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An investigation was immediately launched into the cause of the explosion. After a two-day investigation, Atmos Energy announced that its crews discovered a natural gas leak around the house, however it also claimed the investigation remains ongoing. The underground piping contained polyethylene and was owned, operated and maintained by Atmos.
Despite this claim, the family of the injured eight-year-old filed a lawsuit against Atmos, claiming the explosion was caused by a defective weld/fusion job by Atmos employees. The family asks that the company pays for the little girl’s medical bills, including those required for future care, along with the severe damage on the house and property. They are not asking for a specific number, which will likely be left to the judge or jury to decide.
Is Your Home at Risk?
It is frightening to say the least that such a devastating explosion can be triggered by something as simple as switching on a light. That more serious injuries were not suffered is a miracle, however this should also be a lesson for homeowners and utility providers throughout the country.
Unfortunately, explosions from gas leaks like this occur rather frequently. Natural gas leaks can be caused by a number of different factors, from negligent landlords or technicians to defective equipment. Many companies offer high-tech natural gas leak detection systems, and if any type of toxic contamination is suspected a team of professionals should be called immediately.
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Signs of a natural gas leak include smell of rotten eggs and induce flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, burning eyes, and nausea. Those most at risk are the elderly, young children pregnant women, and those with heart or respiratory conditions. Leaks can also be detected by dead or dying vegetation near pipeline areas, or unusual sounds (hissing or whistling) near a gas line or appliance.
In 2011 in Pennsylvania, a natural gas leak killed five people and destroyed a substantial part of Allentown. This explosion occurred around 11 p.m. after natural gas leaked from a broken cast-iron pipe and into a residential home. The leak was so massive that the consequent explosion destroyed over half a city block.
The company to blame for the leak, UGI Utilities, was fined $500,000, and promised to replace all 450 miles of its cast-iron distribution lines (to be completed by 2027). The company also faced wrongful death claims from the families of the five who were killed in the blast. Ultimately, the company and families agreed to confidential settlements for the deaths for their loved ones and property losses.
Our team of environmental contamination lawyers has been working with victims of toxic exposure and their families for nearly three decades. We know how devastating these types of accidents can be, not only for families but whole communties as well. If you or someone you love was serious injured or sickened by corporate pollution or toxic contamination, contact our firm immediately. We can help you get to the bottom of where, when and how you were exposed. Our case reviews are always free, confidential, and available to victims nationwide.