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The wife of a utility worker who was killed at a natural gas explosion in a Millersville, Pennsylvania home has filed a new wrongful death lawsuit against Honeywell International, Contractors Group, Inc., and PPL Corporation. The case is pending in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Utilities Worker Killed When Natural Gas Leak Caused Catastrophic Explosion

According to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), on July 2, 2017, a local resident walking through the neighborhood smelled natural gas near a house in Millersville, Pennsylvania. She called the utility company, and they sent out a crew to determine if there was a gas leak. The first technician arrived and after detecting a gas concentration near its lower explosive limit, instructed the one lone occupant to leave the house.

Two additional utility technicians arrived shortly after and started excavating a nearby location to stop the flow of leaking gas. While they were working, a Lancaster Area Sewer Authority employee arrived to locate sewer lines, since earlier gas measurements had detected natural gas in the sewage system.

At 12:39 p.m., a massive and catastrophic explosion occurred. The first technician was working at the meter on the side of the house at the time and authorities later found his body in a nearby debris field. The other two utility workers and the LASA employee were injured and hospitalized, but they recovered. Four other homes were damaged by the explosion.

Plaintiff Claims Natural Gas Tapping Tee was Defective

Investigators inspected the “tapping tees” at the explosion location. These are products that connect the main gas line to the service line to supply natural gas to homes and other structures. They found that the tapping tee to the destroyed residence was leaking. It was manufactured by Honeywell.

The plaintiff alleges that the explosion occurred due to the high concentration of natural gas that had resulted from that defective tapping tee, as well as its improper installation. An investigation after the explosion showed that several of the nylon bolts on the tapping tee were fractured, cracked, or had other signs of stress and fatigue that led to the gas leak. The plaintiff adds that Honeywell has since upgraded the materials from which the bolts are made.

The plaintiff also claims that the electricity at the residence remained on while her husband was working there, when the electric company, PPL Corporation, should have shut it off. Finally, she brings claims against the Contractors Group, Inc., for allegedly installing the tapping tee incorrectly.

Altogether, the plaintiff asserts that the defective design of the tapping tee, its incorrect installation, and the failure of the utility company to turn off the electricity created a hazardous condition that resulted in her husband’s death.

Utilities Company Facing Fines for Failing to Protect Worker Safety

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement recently filed a notice indicating that they intend to fine the utilities company $2.1 million because of the explosion. They say the company failed to shut off the gas main to the neighborhood, which they should have done when they learned of the gas leak.

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