Gas Line Explosion|Levels Seven Houses

     COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – Seven families’ homes were leveled in a Columbus, Ohio, suburb on the first day of spring, and they blame Columbia Gas of Ohio and the city of Columbus for it, in separate lawsuits.
     Bungling utility workers from the Columbus Water Department caused the March 21 explosion that destroyed Hidefumi and Mariko Ishida’s house and everything in it, and the homes around it, according to the lawsuits in Franklin County Court.
     The Ishidas sued Columbia Gas of Ohio, the Columbus Division of Water, the city of Upper Arlington and Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance, on Dec. 3. Six other families filed lawsuits the next day.
     All the complaints say the explosion was proximately caused by workers’ confusing a gas line with a water line.
     But the mistakes began before 2000, when Columbia Gas decided to abandon a gas line, but failed to disconnect, seal or mark the abandoned line, according to the complaint. At or around that time the Columbus Water Division and the City of Upper Arlington marked the abandoned gas line as a water line, the families say.
     On March 13 this year the Ishidas hired a plumber to repair a leaky water valve. The plumber called the Columbus Water Department, which sent an employee to shut off the water valve. That employee thought the gas line was a water line and adjusted the gas valve to try to cut off the water, according to the complaint.
     Not surprisingly, that didn’t work. So the Water Department sent another employee out on March 20, who allegedly made the same mistake.
     The next day Columbia Gas got a call from a mailman who smelled gas at the Ishida’s house. Columbia Gas sent a worker to check, and he “measured dangerous and hazardous levels of natural gas in the air,” but could not find the source due to the mismarked gas line, and no immediate steps were taken to repair the leak, according to the complaints.
     Two and a half hours after the mailman reported the leak to Columbia, the gas line exploded. All seven families say their homes and possessions were wrecked. They seek damages and punitive damages for negligence.
     Their lead counsel is Robert Fitzsimmons, of Wheeling, W. Va.

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