Sun Prairie LODD Explosion Prompts Three Suits

The widow of a Wisconsin firefighter killed in a massive gas explosion in July has filed suit against four companies alleged to have contributed to the blast. Sun Prairie Fire Captain Cory Barr was killed and several other firefighters injured in the explosion that followed a natural gas leak caused when contractor struck a gas main. The incident occurred on July 10, 2018 and leveled one building while starting a massive fire in another.

Captain Barr’s widow, Abby, filed a wrongful death suit today against four contractors: VC Tech, Bear Communications, USIC Locating Services and WEC Energy Group doing business as We Energies. Firefighters Ryan Welch and Greg Pavlik, also filed personal injury suits against the four companies.

Copies of the complaints are not available. The complaints were filed after Sun Prairie Police Chief Patrick Anhalt announced no criminal charges would not be filed in the matter.

Here is a link to a news video about the lawsuits.

Here is a link to news video about the explosion.

UPDATE: 12/21/18 – WISC TV Channel 3 in Madison is reporting as follows:

The suits against VC Tech and Bear Communications allege negligence because the companies:

  • “Struck a two inch natural gas main
  • Failed to identify the location of the gas service line prior to engaging in excavation work and/or failed to pull a refreshed or current ticket from the Digger’s Hotline, but instead relied upon a ticket pulled by another digging company
  • Failed to check with USIC Locating Services to determine the exact location of the gas service line prior to performing the excavation work
  • Operated excavating/ drilling equipment without knowing the exact location of the gas service line.”

The suits accuse USIC of breaching its duty of care because it:

  • “Failed to inspect the subsurface of the subject property for underground utility lines
  • Failed to identify underground utilities at the subsurface of the subject property
  • Failed to accurately mark, flag, or otherwise identify the location of the subject gas service line
  • Failed to notify the requestor of said location and marking service of the location of said gas service line(s)
  • Failed to notify the Diggers hotline of the location and marking of the location of said gas service line
  • Failed to notify WE Energies of the location and marking the location of said gas service line(s)
  • Failed to warn the workers from VC TECH that the has lines were not marked at the subject intersection
  • Failed to warn the Sun Prairie Fire Department firefighters, including plaintiff’s decedent that the gas lines were not marked at the subject intersection.”

The suits claim WE Energies:

  • “Failed to respond to reports of a gas leak at the subject property immediately
  • Failed to immediately shut off the flow of natural gas to the subject property
  • Failed to coordinate accurate marking, flagging, or otherwise identifying the location of the subject gas service line
  • Failed to appreciate the emergency nature of the situation.”

 

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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