DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Maria Rogers recalled the moment she learned her 12-year-old daughter, Linda, died of internal injuries one year ago after a natural gas explosion at their home, northwest of Love Field.
“I remember they say, ‘I’m sorry. Michellita passed away.’ So they broke my heart and I remember I was crazy. So I went run and run and say, ‘No, Michellita, no’!”
The Rogers family filed a lawsuit to try to change how natural gas provider, Atmos Energy, does business.
Maria Rogers said she believes Atmos cut corners by not replacing old pipes and that led to the explosion that killed her daughter.
“The first thing I thought, Atmos killed my daughter,” Rogers said.
Dallas Fire-Rescue said two other homes caught fire on the same block were the Rogers lived. Those are also blamed on natural gas.
Days after the child’s death, close to 3,000 homes in the neighborhood were evacuated so gas could be cut off and homes individually checked for safety.
“Atmos has a series of gas lines that are either cast iron, which some of them are 40 years old, or more, or steel,” said Rogers’ family attorney Ted Lyon. “They should have been replaced years ago with plastic lines which are more flexible.”
As part of the Rogers lawsuit against Atmos, they say 500 miles of old pipe is still in Dallas County.
“Corporations exist to make a profit and that’s good. In a lot of cases, but they also have a responsibility to do it safely, and many of them cut corners. And this company has cut a lot of corners,” said Lyon.
Lyon said he expect’s the case to be assigned a trial date late this year or early next year.
While he wouldn’t give a number, he said what the Rogers family is looking for in damages would be “tremendous” to send a message.
“The heartbreaking incident on Espanola Drive that resulted in the death of 12-year-old Linda Rogers continues to weigh heavily on everyone at the company,” said Mike Haefner, President and CEO of Atmos Energy. “We live in the same communities where we work. Our families, friends and neighbors live in the very homes we serve. We are intensely dedicated to safety.”
Atmos also provided the following statement:
Atmos Energy’s commitment to safety is a core value. We are committed to continuous improvements as we work to achieve our vision of being the safest provider of natural gas service. Our continuous improvement efforts include:
· Replaced 98 miles of pipe in the City of Dallas, which is 75% more than all of 2017
· On-boarded 75 contract crews, which is a 250% increase over 2017
· Filed the 8.209 Supplement which includes the accelerated removal of cast iron by December 2021
This year you will see a 50% increase in the number of crews working across the City of Dallas, for a total of 196 crews by the end of 2019.
Comparing actual replacement in 2017 to projected results in 2019, you will see accelerated activity representing a 700% increase in the replacement of steel pipe, a 200% increase in the replacement of steel service lines, and a 50% increase in the removal of cast iron.