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Settlement Reached by Family of Man Killed in Gas Explosion

The family of a construction worker killed by a propane gas explosion that occurred in Norfolk in August 2010 has come to a $7.5 million settlement in the wrongful death law suit it filed against EnergyUSA and Smolinsky Bothers Plumbing and Heating. William Nichols, 46, was killed when a propane gas tank at a Norfolk condominium construction project was negligently under-filled by the energy company. This allegedly caused the chemical odorant-designed to make the gas detectable-to fade.

The suit also alleges that Smolinsky Bothers did not fully tighten a connection to the furnace, which caused the then-undetectable gas to leak. This leak is what is said to have caused the explosion. The blast essentially buried Nichols in burning debris, crushing him and resulting in burns covering more than 80 percent of his body, until he was extracted by local firefighters. The burns and other injuries resulting from the explosion are what ultimately led to his death.

The attorney representing the family referred to the incident as “a terrible tragedy that could easily have been avoided.” It has also led some to call for safety reforms in the propane industry. Stephen Coan, Massachusetts State Fire Marshal, has led a national effort to improve safety regulations. As a result of these efforts, it is reported that Massachusetts will likely introduce new regulations this fall in order to promote better safety training in propane delivery as well as requiring that newly-installed tanks are completely filled in order to avoid situations such as the one that led to the Norfolk explosion.

Family of man killed in propane explosion reach settlement, The Boston Channel, July 9, 2012