WAXAHACHIE (CBS11) – Waxahachie homeowners are now suing Atmos Energy—saying a natural gas explosion that rocked their neighborhood last year could have been prevented.
“It makes me angry,” said Adel Mira. “It makes me angry that they did not do what they were supposed to do.”
Mira’s home was leveled in the blast. “It was a miracle that I got out of there alive.”
Still, miracles come at a cost. Mira suffered severe burns and was hospitalized for six weeks. “My hands, my legs… skin grafts,” and then she pauses as though reflecting on the long road to recovery, and with her voice barely above a whisper, “I never thought that this would ever happen to me.”
Now, Mira and more than two dozen former neighbors in the Saddlebrook Estates subdivision are suing the cable company sub-contractor that ruptured gas and sewer lines, allowing gas to travel through the sewer line and settle in Mira’s home. It exploded that September morning last year when she turned on her stove to cook breakfast. “I just don’t want this to happen again,” said Mira.
An attorney representing the homeowners told reporters today that even with the sub-contractor’s breech, a properly placed ‘excess flow valve’ would have prevented the subsequent explosion.
“It’s real simple,” said attorney Tom Carse, “If an Atmos employee at the time they were installing the meter for 112 had walked across the street, dug his hole, installed this valve, we’re not here talking about this.”
While gesturing to a cardboard mock up of the neighborhood, Carse explained that the valve is a “$20 to $21 part. Atmos put one on the line; but, we found it over in front of 112, almost 68 feet away from the main line—leaving all of this gas line unprotected.”
A spokesperson for Atmos Energy released a statement today denying the allegations: “Atmos Energy received no reports that the natural gas line had been cut prior to the incident… Atmos Energy’s natural gas system was safe until it was damaged by a cable company contractor.”
Homeowner Jeff Dotson disagrees. He’s a plaintiff in the lawsuit and says although he has repaired his home, his family continues to suffer the consequences of the disruption. The family initially lived in a hotel and his wife had to drop out of nursing school.
“I want Atmos to own the fact that if they had put the excess flow value as close to the main line as possible—we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Dotson. “There wouldn’t be people hurt. Adel (Mira) wouldn’t be hurt—the people in my neighborhood would feel safe.”
Meanwhile, Mira says it is too painful to return to her old neighborhood. Only a concrete slab remains where her home once stood. She says the lawsuit will help her and her disabled brother, also injured in the blast, move forward. “I want Atmos to own up to what they did… and I want to get this behind me.”
“We want Atmos to own up to their mistake and take responsibility,” says Carse, “if they don’t, we’d hope that an Ellis county jury would do that for us.”
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