First of all, there is still too little information. Private Investigators are not attorneys and only attorneys and the courts will determine who will be responsible. Fire Marshal's, Police Officers seek information that will aid the courts that determination. Upon an explosion or fire usually the first step is a Fire Marshal, Police Department or the "authority having jurisdiction" in that geological area will conduct an "origin and cause" investigation. NFPA 921 is usually the guide that "origin and cause" investigators follow. Upon a determination of where, how and what caused the fire/explosion is usually what guides the next step. If criminal activity is suspected then the investigation is turned over to an investigating agency which is usually a Police Department CID or Fire Marshal's Office which has Peace Officer status. If the incident is determined to be accidental then usually the private sector such as Insurance entities and attorneys get involved in it as a civil case. Usually they perform their own "origin and cause" investigations because they are either:
1- trying to protect their insured client from responsibility for an action or inaction or
2- seeking subrogation - which is if the insurance company that is covering the property involved, has to pay its declared coverage to the insured or surviving members, seeks to recover some of its costs by going after manufacturers of equipment involved in the fire/explosion because of some type of malfunction of that piece of equipment, because of services that were either performed or not performed to that particular piece of equipment as may be required by the authority having jurisdiction or services that may have been performed in an unauthorized, unrecognized aggregious action that is usually not recognized by the "Trade" of the service performed. The short answer though is that only the local investigating agencies and the courts can decide who is responsible. It's sad and unfortunate that there was a loss of life but there is no one on-line that could ever answer your questions. You should ask the local authorities.
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To: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
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Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 10:35 AM
Subject: [infoguys-list] (no subject)
Names have been changed. Need your opinions ASAP. thanks in advance. Have fun!
Fred and Ginger . had been married for several years. Ginger had three
children, a son, fourteen and twins, (a boy and a girl) aged eleven from a
previous relationship and marriage. Fred, Ginger and all three of the children
In the fall and winter of 2001-2002, Fred had built a bedroom in an
unfinished basement for the oldest boy so that he could have his own room and area.
The room was basically a box built within the unfinished basement. The room was
heated with an LP gas heater and Fred had been utilizing 20 lb. LP gas
cylinders mounted within the basement and feeding LP gas to the wall heater in the
oldest child's bedroom. Because of the frequency with which the smaller tanks
were used up during the winter months, Eddie wanted to obtain a 100 lb. tank.
A friend of his was cleaning out some sheds on a piece of property he rented
and told Fred there was a 100 lb. cylinder in one of the sheds and Fred could
have it if he wanted it.
Fred obtained the cylinder and took it to Shoppette, a convenience store
which had a propane tank filling facility provided by Blo Gas, Inc.
State law and federal regulations require that propane tanks be recertified
within twelve years after the date of manufacture and then every five years
thereafter. Although the tank which Fred had obtained looked fine, it was
manufactured in 1949 and had never been recertified. Additionally, the valve on the
tank had been manufactured I 1952 and although there are no state or federal
regulations mandating the replacement of valves on LP tanks, the manufacturer
of the valve recommends that they be replaced after ten years.
The clerk at shopette (who had been trained and certified to fill propane
tanks by Blo) failed to inspect the tank and note that it was out of
certification. The clerk filled the tank with 100 lbs. of propane on the afternoon of
February 18, 2002, after which Fred and a friend took the tank to the home and
placed it in the basement. Later that evening, Fred hooked the propane tank up
to the gas line leading to the wall heater in his stepson's room, but when he
turned the handle to allowed gas to flow out of the tank, he noted there was a
small leak around the shaft of the valve. Fred closed the valve and called
his father who was experienced in installing LP tanks and asked if there was
anything he could do about the leak. Fred's father told him to tighten the nut
at the base of the valve.
While Fred was attempting to tighten the nut at the base of the valve, the
pressure relief valve (located on the side of the LP gas valve assembly and
designed through a spring-loaded valve to allow excess pressure to escape) popped
off, which allowed the LP gas to escape at a very high rate. Ginger heard the
loud roaring noise of the LP gas escaping through the open pressure relief
valve and ran downstairs. She asked what had happened and Fred told her that
the pressure relief spring and cap had "popped off" at which point Ginger said,
"We need to open the doors to let the gas escape."
As FRed and Ginger opened the doors to the basement, the gas reached an
ignition source (probably the hot water heater which was located in the unfinished
area of the basement) and an explosion occurred. Fred and Ginger were thrown
out into the yard, with FREd suffering a concussion and Ginger suffering a
ruptured spleen. The explosion and ensuing fire claimed the lives of all three
of the children who were in their bed rooms in the house.
Both the owner of Shoppette and the managers and safety directors of Blo Gas
have admitted that it was illegal to fill the LP gas tank. They contend
however, that Fred was the sole cause of the explosion and death of the children
by virtue of having brought the LP gas tank into an enclosed area. Their
position is that Fred must have simply unscrewed the cap holding the pressure
relief valve in, allowing all of the gas to escape. There is no evidence of Fred
having disturbed the pressure relief valve and cap, as there is no damage to
the threads on the valve where the pressure relief valve cap was located and
crimped onto the valve, and additionally, even on the evening of the explosion
in an interview given to the Fire Marshall, Fred maintained that the cap and
spring "just popped out". There is no doubt that the gas escaped as a result
of the pressure relief cap and valve being off of the tank as the valve
itself was fused in the "closed" position in the fire. The pressure relief valve
mechanism and the cap designed to hold it in were never found after the fire.
The Defense contends that for some reason, Fred too a pipe wrench or pliers
and unscrewed the cap holding the pressure relief valve in and , thus allowing
all of the gas to escape.
1. Who is responsible for the deaths of the three children?
2. Given the fact that Ginger cannot have any other children, what do you
feel represents fair and adequate compensation for the full value of the life of
her three children?
3. Although Fred and Ginger have no children, they are still married and
living together. Would that fact in any way affect your opinion? If so, how?
4. Would it affect any of your opinions if it came into evidence that at the
emergency room on a routine toxicology screen performed on all ER trauma
patients, Fred tested positive for amphetamines and marijuana although there is no
evidence of impairment.
5. Would the fact that Ginger knew the propane tank was in an enclosed area
lead you to believe that she was responsible for the loss of her children?
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