Third Lawsuit Filed Over Deadly Explosion

The explosion ripped this apartment building apart. (File)
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WEST (April 24, 2013)--A third lawsuit has been filed in state district court in Waco over the deadly explosion last week at West Fertilizer Co.

A grandmother injured in the explosion alleges in the new lawsuit that Adair Grain, Inc. showed "conscious indifference" to local residents in its storage and handling of toxic and dangerous materials, Jason A. Gibson, of the Gibson Law Firm, of Houston, said today.

The action was filed in Waco's 170th State District Court by lawyers for Bridgett Bowles and her husband Roger.

The petition alleges Mrs. Bowles was thrown by the explosion and suffered a broken jaw, loosened teeth, a perforated eardrum, and loss of hearing.

She was in a public park with friends when the fertilizer plant exploded.

Her cell phone was found 150 feet from where she stood at the time of the explosion, the petition says.

The petition also details damage done to the Bowles' home, which is within the so-called blast zone.

The lawsuit accuses Adair Grain, Inc. of negligence in safety policies and procedures, employee training and supervision, and maintenance and repair of the facility.

According to the complaint, "Despite being in the business of storing and handling of highly volatile and toxic materials, Defendant's facility had not undergone a full safety inspection by regulators since 1985."

The lawsuit joins two others filed earlier in the same incident, records in the district clerk's office show.

The first suit filed was brought by four separate insurance companies, names Adair Grain and West Fertilizer as co-defendants.

The second was filed by Andrea Jones Guetirrez and it names Adair Grain and West Fertilizer as co-defendants.

Both lawsuits were filed in Waco's 414th State District Court.

The first, filed April 19, seeks an unspecified amount of damages from the defendants for what the petition calls "negligent acts and omissions (which) were the proximate cause of the explosion that resulted in damages to the plaintiffs, including the destruction (of) real and personal property and lost profits.

The insurance companies have policies which protect several businesses in West, including Larry Sparks, DDS, Jerrel Bolton Chevrolet, Ace Auto Supply, Gerik's Olde Czech Bakery, Pescaia Family Trust, West Texas Welding Supply, West TV and Appliance, First United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church.

Also named as policy holders are Jerrel Bolton, David and Evelyn Paryea, Anna Kazanas and Michael Gassaway.

The plaintiffs are being represented by attorney Paul A. Grinke, of Dallas.

The pleading further alleges the defendant was negligent in his hiring, training and supervision practices which led to the fire and explosion on April 17.

Grinke, contacted by telephone Tuesday, said in spite of the fact that investigators have not yet named a cause for the fire and explosion, he believes the plaintiffs have grounds to believe the fertilizer company and its owners were negligent in that the incident happened on their property and that the property was under their control.

Grinke said its basic legal maneuvering to ensure that when the government completes its investigation, the plaintiffs will have standing to conduct their own investigation into the tragedy.

"But the lawsuit is not the real story," Grinke said.

"The real story is the community and how it has come together and how they are working to rebuild," he said.

The second suit brought by Guetierrez, an individual, seeks damages between $500,000 and $1 million.

The second lawsuit alleges as a result of the defendants negligence that plaintiff's apartment and all her worldly possessions were destroyed, along with her vehicle.

The petition also alleges the defendant and her juvenile child were injured in the explosion.

Attorney Randell C. Roberts, of Tyler, is representing Guetierrez in the lawsuit.