Norfolk propane explosion sparks wrongful death settlement

At the tail end of July 2010, a 46-year-old Massachusetts man was working for a Franklin electric company in the basement of a Norfolk condominium at about 12:30 p.m. In addition to his job working as an electrician, he was also a lead guitar player for an area band called Fatty Mac.

Little did he know when he went to work that day that he had already played his last song. Instead, his family would soon be fighting for justice by filing a wrongful death claim against the companies whose negligence allegedly caused his death in a propane tank explosion that summer day.

The wrongful death lawsuit subsequently filed by the victim’s family alleged several acts of negligence against EnergyUSA Propane and Smolinsky Brothers Plumbing and Heating (Smolinsky) in regard to the installation of a new underground propane tank at the condominium development.

EnergyUSA was accused of under-filling the tank, leaving it four-fifths empty in spite of an industry standard of four-fifths full. This allegedly led to dissipation of a protective odor, akin to the smell of rotten eggs and used as a warning of leaking gas.

The complaint also claimed that Smolinsky negligently failed to tighten a connection to the furnace, which allegedly allowed the undetectable propane to escape and ultimately result in the explosion that killed the electrician.

Others were seriously injured as well, including two Massachusetts firefighters, a resident of the complex and four construction workers. Two of those, who were onsite when the explosion occurred, were critically injured and ultimately settled their own lawsuits in early July for $22.5 million. On July 9, the surviving family of the deceased electrician settled a separate wrongful death claim against EnergyUSA and Smolinsky for $7.5 million after having demanded a jury trial.

In addition to the wrongful death settlements recently announced, the Massachusetts state fire marshal is said to be spearheading a national drive for more stringent safety regulations concerning propane. The marshal has been joined in that effort by the Norfolk fire chief and the state’s Department of Fire Services. Indeed, the efforts are said to have already spurred new regulations for propane industry safety within our state, designed to prevent a recurrence of what was described as a needless tragedy. For its part, the electrician’s family is pleased their brother’s death may prevent future tragedies.

Source:, “Family of 2010 Norfolk propane explosion victim settles,” Heather Mccarron, July 10, 2012

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