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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Water Heater Blamed for Explosion of PA Home

LOWER WINDSOR TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CN) - Propane leaking from a water heater caused a Pennsylvania home to explode after a storm, an insurer claims in court.

Erie Insurance Exchange filed the complaint in the York County Court of Common Pleas after allegedly paying more than $1.8 million to date covering the claim submitted by homeowners Jonathan and Karen Gish.

The Gishes' Wrightsville home overlooking the Susquehanna River "exploded" at about 5 a.m. on July 24, 2014, some hours after "thunder and lightening impacted the Wrightsville area" the evening prior.

Erie Insurance says "the Gish home was subject to an indirect lightening strike during storm," and investigators later found "a hole in the short section of" piping that had been installed with a 500-gallon underground propane storage tank bank in 2007.

"The hole in the CSST piping allowed propane to leak into the basement," the complaint states, abbreviating corrugated stainless steel tubing. "The propane ultimately found an ignition source which caused the explosion and resulting fire."

The complaint notes that the last member of the Gish family left the property in the morning before the storm, and indeed WGAL 8 reported after the explosion that no one in the family of five was injured.

"All of us were out of the house," Karen Gish told the local news outlet last year. "And that in and of itself is just a miracle. I was away at camp with two kids. I had been encouraging my husband to take a few days and go away somewhere just because he had off work."

Gish added that her family had lived in the house for 16 years. John Gish, described in the article as a doctor at Lancaster General Hospital, was reportedly fishing in Maryland when the house exploded.

The March 18 complaint from Erie Insurance names as defendants three companies with alleged connections to the propane tank in the Gishes' home: Countryside Propane LLC, of Bethel, Pa.; Hixon Plumbing and Heating, of Mt. Joy, Pa.; and the Gastite division of Titeflex Corp., in Portland, Tenn.

"Countryside and/or Hixon did not bond or ground the CSST as Titeflex and industry standards, customs, and practices mandated," the complaint alleges.

Erie Insurance wants the companies to pay it $1.8 million in damages for negligence, breach of warranty and other claims.

It is represented by Christopher Konzelman of White and Williams in Philadelphia.

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