Three people harmed by the gas explosion that leveled an entire block of downtown Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, have filed lawsuits against the utilities and contractors they say are responsible for the deadly blast.
Abigail Barr, the widow of firefighter Cory Barr, filed a lawsuit Dec. 20, the same day authorities announced there would be no criminal charges in connection with the blast. Mr. Barr was killed in the July 10 gas explosion that destroyed a bar he owned and several other buildings. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Barr was not on the premises to respond to the emergency.
The blast injured 11 other people, including two other firefighters who filed personal injury lawsuits on the same day Ms. Barr filed her complaint in Dane County Circuit Court.
The gas explosion occurred when a subcontractor installing fiber optic lines struck a gas main. The damaged pipeline allowed natural gas to escape and accumulate. Much of the block was evacuated before the gas ignited, sending a massive fireball and plume of smoke into the sky.
Kansas-based Bear Communications hired VC Tech Inc. of Michigan to install the fiber optic cable lines under Sun Prairie, a suburb of Madison with a population of about 30,000. VC Tech was installing the cable using a drilling process called directional drilling or directional boring, which sets the lines underground without having to dig trenches. When done properly, directional drilling is a faster, less disruptive way of laying underground cable.
Ms. Barr’s wrongful death lawsuit names VC Tech, Bear Communications, USIC Locating Services, and WE Energies as defendants.
Sun Prairie Police Chief Patrick Anhalt said “There is not probable cause to believe a crime was committed,” according to Green Bay’s WBAY Action News. He said the blast occurred after the companies involved in the project exchanged and relied upon “incomplete and inaccurate information.”
Ms. Barr’s lawsuit alleges the gas main was hit by the drill because the companies involved relied on a May 23 ticket pulled by another digging company rather than contacting the Digger’s Hotline to obtain a current ticket. She also alleges that the defendants failed to take the proper measures to determine the exact location of the gas line and proceeded to drill without knowing where the gas line was.