Farmington explosion civil suits settled

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First responders at the scene of the Sept. 16, 2019, explosion at 313 Farmington Falls Road. A member of Farmington Fire Rescue was killed in the blast and several people were injured.

FARMINGTON – Civil suits filed in relation to the 2019 explosion at an office building on the Farmington Falls Road have been settled, according to documents filed with the Franklin County court system.

The suits related to the Sept. 16, 2019 explosion at the Life Enrichment Advancing People Inc. office building previously located at 313 Farmington Falls Road. Larry Lord, the maintenance supervisor for LEAP, was inside the building with a Farmington Fire Rescue crew investigating a report of a gas leak when the explosion occurred. Six firefighters were injured and Capt. Michael Bell was killed in the blast.

According to the Fire Marshal’s Office, the underground line leading from the propane tank to the building was severed by the auger head of a bollard – a post used to direct traffic – on Sept. 10, 2019, six days prior to the explosion. Investigators previously indicated that bollard, one of four installed by Techno Metal Post ME of Manchester to protect an external air conditioning unit, was drilled into the paved parking lot and severed the line.

Suits were filed by attorney Steven Silin of Berman & Simmons, representing Lord and his family, and by attorney Walter McKee, representing the estate of Michael Bell as well as six firefighters injured in the blast, against two companies: the CN Brown Company and Techno Metal Post ME, LLC.

In both cases, the suits argued that the companies were negligent. In the case of Techno Metal Post, LLC, that the company failed to take “reasonable and readily available measures to determine the presence and location of the buried gas line”; failed to notify Dig-Safe of its intent to excavate in proximity to the line; and drilled the bollard through the buried line “severing the line and causing a leak that CN Brown failed to discover.” In CN Brown’s case, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the company failed to “communicate properly the out-of-gas/out-of-hot water interruption of service to its employee dispatched to the LEAP premise;” failed to perform a leak test on the tank; and failed to determine the cause of the interruption of service. This was in violation of safety codes and national safety methods, the suit indicated.

A stipulation of dismissal with prejudice, meaning the suit cannot be brought again, was filed with the Franklin County Superior Court on Oct. 15. It indicates that the parties: Bell’s estate, C.N. Brown, Techno Metal Post ME LLC and LEAP, which was added as a third-party defendant after the suit was initially filed, agreed to dismiss all claims.

The suit filed on behalf of the Lords was settled in May after a “long and difficult process,” according to their attorney, Silin.

“After a long and difficult process we are pleased to have successfully settled the case on behalf of the Lord family back in May,” Silin said via email Thursday. “It has been a privilege representing these wonderful members of our Maine community and we ask everyone to respect their clear wish that no further attention be drawn to them as they endeavor to get on with their lives.”

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