Propane Safety and Home Explosions

Propane Safety For You and Your Family: September 2010

Many Massachusetts residents use propane to cook, and heat their homes and hot water. Others use propane in outdoor BBQs and other appliances. But certain propane deliveries may not be safe for Massachusetts consumers and businesses and it is vital to take steps to protect yourself and your family. Earlier this month, state officials reported DCP Midstream of Westfield, Massachusetts, a major propane company, had distributed odorless propane to residential and commercial customers. Without the odorant, consumers are left without any warning that there may have been a gas leak.

Our Client Injured in a Propane Gas Explosion in Norfolk, Massachusetts

As a result of DCP Midstream's actions, a 48-year-old electrician, Billy Nichols from Blackstone, was killed in a Norfolk, Massachusetts condo explosion in July. Breakstone, White & Gluck and our lawyers are now representing the victim's family. According to other workers on the site, there was no detectable odor of propane gas prior to the deadly explosion. Our client had no warning what was about to happen. He was severely burned and trapped under heavy debris for over 90 minutes before he was rescued and taken to the hospital. He fought, but succumbed to his injuries and died the next day. Update (2012): Attorney Marc L. Breakstone settled this case for $7.5 million for the client's family.

After the fatal explosion in Norfolk, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office had a "sense" some of the odorless propane in Massachusetts originated with Aux Sable Liquid Products of Illinois. That company has now warned there may be odorless gas in 12 states.

Tips for Consumers

Breakstone, White & Gluck continues to investigate and will leave no stone unturned in finding answers for our client's family. Meanwhile, we offer consumers the following safety tips for propane use.

  1. Contact your propane supplier if you have had a propane delivery since May 2010. State officials have announced that the deliveries of the dangerous propane from DCP Midstream's began on May 1, 2010.

  2. Ask your propane supplier where it obtains its propane - for work and for your home. The DCP Midstream facility had 100 local suppliers that deliver to residential and commercial customers. In the Norfolk case, EnergyUSA was the local supplier.

  3. Do not attempt to inspect your system yourself. This could have the adverse effect of creating a leak. Contact your local supplier.

  4. Purchase a gas detector. They are available for approximately $60 at your local hardware store or online. They will not work in situations where the propane is mishandled, but gas detectors are an invaluable investment for a household.

  5. Check propane valves. They should be in the off positions when not in use. Propane tanks on BBQs and other appliances should always be shut off after use.

  6. Take immediate action if you smell gas. Mercaptan emits a strong sulfur smell. This is what you smell if your stove does not light properly. If you believe that there is a gas leak in your home, immediately evacuate and call 911. Do not turn any switches on or off before your leave the premises since even a small spark can ignite leaking gas.

Breakstone, White & Gluck remains committed to promoting safety and to the representation of individuals who may have been injured due to the negligence of others. If we can be of service to you or your family for any safety related matter, please do not hesitate to call or email our firm for assistance. Thank you.

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