Early this year, NJ.com reported that “A lawsuit against a New Jersey gas utility over a gas explosion that destroyed an Elizabeth family's home, injured six, and killed two has ended in a $19.2 million settlement.” According to the court-approved terms of the settlement, “Elizabethtown Gas Company’s parent company is responsible for $18.95 million … while the owner of the home, Abel Brito, is responsible for $250,000.”
The building was a three-story home with a ground floor that Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage told the press, “had been illegally converted into a living unit.” On the date of the explosion, Nov. 11, 2015, there had been 16 people living in the building. The gas explosion had occurred on the second floor, “which then collapsed onto the first floor, trapping several members of the [Henderson] family.”
Casualties of the explosion included “[t]hree members of the Henderson family -- sisters Tavasha Henderson, 36, Kimiya Henderson, 26, and their brother, Tyquan Henderson, 11 -- initially survived the explosion, but later died from their injuries over subsequent months. Tayasha Henderson’s two children were seriously injured in the fire. A fourth person, 24-year-old Femi Brown, who lived on the second floor of the home, also died in the explosion.” Survivors of the disaster are expected to “suffer from permanent post-traumatic stress syndrome” according to the testimony of a medical expert. The explosion, which sounded to neighbors like a plane crash, “also nearly destroyed two adjacent homes.”
An attorney for the family stated, “Nothing can bring these family members back, but this settlement can help them move on with their lives and try to reform their family. We all live a situation where nearly everybody has natural gas in their homes. Nobody thinks it can be a danger. The reality of that danger came true and ripped apart multiple generations of this family."
Under normal circumstances, natural gas providers lose about two percent of the gas they deliver from leaks due to poorly maintained gas lines. Although gas explosions occur throughout the year, several factors make cold weather months more dangerous. Cold weather and frost harden the soil, so leaking gas is not vented there and is more likely to migrate into a home. Homes are also more likely to be sealed against the elements, so leaking gas can accumulate more easily. When gas accumulates in a home, the slightest spark can set off an explosion.
Natural gas is odorless, but companies add an ingredient to give off a foul, “rotten eggs” smell if gas is present. The Building Performance Institute advises, that if you smell gas in your home, check to see if you inadvertently left a stove burner in the “on” position. If so:
- Immediately turn off the burner.
- Extinguish any flames that are lit.
- Turn on the range hood fan to the highest setting.
- Do not ignite any flame in the house (like cigarettes or candles).
- Do not turn on appliances, light switches, or your car (if in an attached garage or near your house).
- Open all the windows and doors to air out your house.
Moreover, “If you can, get everyone, including your pets, out of the house while your house gets flushed with fresh air.”
However, if you have not left a stove burner on, you should “evacuate the house as quickly as possible and call 9-1-1. Then, call your natural gas provider (your utility).”
If you or a loved one has experienced a home explosion due to natural gas or propane, you have legal options, and you may be entitled to compensation for your financial losses and pain and suffering. Our serious injury attorneys can help you choose the right course of action to collect the maximum recovery. Please read more on our Propane or Natural Gas Injury overview, or contact us at the information below.