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“Aurora Community Rocked by Explosion” by Burg Simpson

By Anne-Marie Kopek
September 13, 2022
5 min read




Three people were injured in an explosion at the Parkside Collective apartment complex in Aurora, Colorado over the weekend.

Aurora Fire Rescue arrived at the 14565 East Alameda Avenue building on the morning of September 10, 2022, after receiving reports of smoke coming out of the building. Residents say the fire alarm had activated around 9:30 a.m. As firefighters searched for potential hazards, the explosion blew out a large section of wall on the western side of the building and sent debris crashing down on the sidewalk below.

Residents describe hearing odd noises before the explosion and feeling the ground shake underneath them as they stood outside, waiting helplessly. Although officials have not announced the cause of explosion, reports indicate that it happened in the vicinity of utility meters. Xcel Energy has been observed investigating the scene.

300 to 400 residents continue to be displaced and several nearby businesses have been shuttered. The structural integrity of the complex is unknown. Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a long string of explosions wreaking havoc and taking lives in our communities.

The lawyers at Burg Simpson possess formidable experience in successfully investigating and litigating fire and explosion cases all over the country, including states such as Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. They routinely combine their exhaustive knowledge of federal, state, and local regulations with an extensive network of engineers, fire scientists, and utility-industry experts. This approach has enabled Burg Simpson to take on some of the largest corporate entities in the world and hold them to account for their roles in bringing about preventable injuries, death, and property damage.

The firm was instrumental in bringing legal action and obtaining a favorable settlement on behalf of the tens of thousands of residents impacted by 2018 gas explosions in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts. There, a series of fires and explosions occurred after high-pressure natural gas was released into a low-pressure cast-iron pipeline system. 131 structures were damaged, including at least five homes. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the incident “was Columbia Gas of Massachusetts’ weak engineering management that did not adequately plan, review, sequence, and oversee the construction project that led to the abandonment of a cast iron main without first relocating regulator sensing lines to the new polyethylene main.”

Given its status as the preeminent firm in the field of explosion and fire litigation, Burg Simpson is uniquely positioned to identify broad-scale patterns of unsafe practices and conditions. Aging infrastructure, like that in Merrimack Valley, is only one of factors contributing to the high number of deadly explosions that persist despite known and available solutions. The legal team at Burg Simpson has also prevailed on cases involving improper system design, noncompliance with federal damage prevention regulations, and underground excavation damage.

Burg Simpson has zealously worked on behalf of numerous residents and former residents of Heather Gardens, a 55+ community located in Aurora, Colorado. In 2018, a gas explosion killed Carol Ross and injured many of her neighbors. Prior to that explosion, excavation contractors installing fiber optic wire violated state and federal law and struck dozens of gas and electric lines within the neighborhood. Burg Simpson and its clients contend that the failure to stop the excavation project and the failure to provide a timely and effective emergency response to the reported gas leak caused the foreseeable, preventable explosion.

As indicated by the Heather Gardens explosion, the nation-wide effects of excavation damage to utility facilities are significant. The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) is an association of nearly 1,800 individuals and 250 companies in the underground utility industry. In its 2020 annual Report, the CGA states, “Excavation damages have a significant economic impact on the U.S., with an estimated $30 billion in annual societal costs, which includes direct (facility repair) and indirect (property damage, medical expenses, business closures, etc.) costs.” In 2020, there were 82,458 unique damages to natural gas facilities within the United States, each with the potential to result in a fire or explosion.

Due to the threat of excavation damages, pipeline operators are required by federal regulations to develop and carry out a written program to prevent damage from excavation activities. A damage prevention program must provide for the inspection of pipelines that operators have reason to believe could be damaged by excavation activities. Such inspections must be done as frequently as necessary during and after the activities to verify the integrity of the pipeline.

If a gas leak has already occurred, a gas operator must eliminate the dangerous situation by providing a timely and substantive emergency response. However, this is often the exception rather than the rule. Operators often lack the training, resources, and management required for an effective emergency response. In such cases, the lawyers as Burg Simpson utilize careful discovery and trial strategies to combat the operator’s attempts to avoid scrutiny.

No matter the cause, an explosion is a significant event that warrants a full and comprehensive evaluation. If you or someone you know has been impacted by an explosion or fire, contact our attorneys at (888) 895-2080 to see how we can help you.

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