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Gas Company Found Responsible for Cedar Ridge Apartments Explosion

August 29, 2018 | 3 min read

The news seems to be filled with stories of gas explosions. Whether it’s in a residential area, such as the one in a Denver neighborhood that blew a hole through a multi-family residence, or the one at a gas collection facility in Grand County, Colorado, that injured two workers in July, these preventable tragedies appear to be more frequent than ever.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by the American Chemical Society, accidents involving natural gas kill 17 people and cause $133 million in property damage every year.

Sadly, there’s nothing new about them. On a cold February night in 1996, for example, a natural gas explosion destroyed Cedar Ridge Apartments in Cody, Wyoming, injuring at least two people, Melissa and Randy Hynes.

If you’ve been injured in a home explosion caused by a faulty gas line, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. An experienced accident attorney can help you get the justice you deserve.

Chain Reaction Caused Explosion

The Cedar Ridge Apartments explosion in Wyoming wasn’t as simple as it sounds, however. It began with a smaller explosion in a single unit – flames jumped out of an electric baseboard heater when the tenant turned off the bathroom light. Since the complex wasn’t served by a natural gas line, the first responders didn’t test for natural gas. But when fire officials attempted to cut off power to the building by throwing the breakers, sparks caused a second, larger explosion that leveled the building.

The resulting investigation revealed that Cody Gas Co. workers had installed a gas line to a nearby residence in 1954. The underground line cracked less than 20 feet from the apartment complex. Because of the frozen ground, the gas followed the path of least resistance, which seemed to be the “telephone lines that intersected the gas line near the cracking and serviced the Cedar Ridge Apartments.” Experts concluded “the pipe had been leaking for some time between a few hours and two days before the explosion.”

The Hynes brought claims of negligence, breach of warranty, strict liability, and willful and wanton conduct against Energy West, seeking compensatory and punitive damages alike. While the couple later dropped their breach of warranty and strict liability claims, the Hynes charged that Energy West, the company that owned Cody Gas Co., had breached its duty of care by continuing to use the pipeline even though it was damaged.

Additionally, the couple insisted that:

  • The piping was made of steel, which became fragile because of the cold.
  • The piping had been damaged.
  • The part of the pipe that was underground had been buried only 12 inches, not deep enough to be safe.

Finally, the Hynes claimed the energy company didn’t odorize its gas properly.

Justice Served

The case went to trial, which lasted three weeks. The jury decided that Energy West didn’t act “willfully and wantonly,” so punitive damages were rejected. However, the jury did award compensatory damages of nearly $3.3 million to Randy Hynes and a little more than $2 million to Melissa Hynes.

The jury decided there was plenty of blame to go around. Specifically, jurors apportioned fault between several parties, including:

  • Energy West – 55 percent.
  • S. West – 25 percent.
  • The fire chief, who was first on the scene – 10 percent.
  • Dispatcher – 5 percent.
  • Apartment tenant where the original fire began – 5 percent.

If a natural gas explosion has left you or a loved one seriously injured, don’t try to handle it on your own. Call the office of Burg Simpson Colorado at 303-792-5595 so you can explain your situation to a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible. Or you can complete our Free Case Evaluation Form right now.