Victims of Food Truck Blast, U-Haul Reach $160M Settlement

This July 1, 2014 photo shows a food truck damaged when one of the truck’s propane tanks exploded and sent a fireball into the sky, causing the deaths days later of the food truck’s owner Olga Galdamez and her 17-year-old daughter Jaylin from burn-related injuries, severely burning three others and injuring several more in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. (C.F. Sanchez/Philadelphia Daily News via AP, File)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Several victims of a 2014 food truck explosion have reached a $160 million settlement with U-Haul, which was accused of refilling the truck’s old and damaged propane tanks, lawyers announced Wednesday.

One plaintiff will receive more than $69 million; a second will get $54.3 million and the estates of a mother and daughter killed in the blast will get $36.5 million. Each also will receive a confidential settlement amount, according to plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Investigators have said food truck owner, Olga Galdamez, took her propane tanks to a U-Haul subsidiary where they were filled despite being outdated. Galdamez and her 17-year-old daughter, Jaylin, died from burn-related injuries days after the July 2014 blast likely caused by a leak in one of those tanks.

Surveillance video captured the explosion in the city’s Feltonville neighborhood in north Philadelphia, which was followed by a huge fireball that engulfed the La Parrillada Chapina truck and set a utility pole on fire.

Civil lawsuits were filed against U-Haul and others in 2015 and 2016.

“We hope the settlement will bring the family some closure and trust that because of this incident, corrective measures will be adopted to improve propane dispensing safety,” said Alan Feldman, who represented the estates of the mother and daughter, identified in the settlement as “Sofia Smith” and “Maria Smith.”

U-Haul maintains they didn’t fill the tank involved in the explosion, said Sebastien Reyes, the company’s vice president of communications. The company has made additional safety changes to its propane program, including educating team members.

“The continued sympathies of everyone at U-Haul of Pennsylvania are with the individuals and families affected,” he said in a statement.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs commended U-Haul’s response to the lawsuits as responsible and transparent.

“U-Haul recognized that this was a terrible tragedy and although denying liability, looked beyond the adversarial process and showed persistent compassion to the victims,” said lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi, who represented the plaintiff called “Alex Doe” who received $69.1 million.

Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced the charges of violating federal hazardous materials regulations against the U-Haul Company of Pennsylvania and the general manager of one of its Philadelphia stores.

“U-Haul will be entering a plea of not guilty and intends to address this matter vigorously in court,” Reyes said.

A lawyer for the manager, Miguel Rivera, has said he has consistently maintained his innocence.

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