Lawsuits filed by the widow of a firefighter who died and two firefighters who were injured in the Sun Prairie explosion say four companies are to blame.
FOX 47 has obtained the complaints for three civil lawsuits, filed Thursday against the four companies involved in the construction project that authorities believe led to the explosion. These companies include VC Tech, Bear Communications, USIC Locating Services and WEC Energy Group, doing business as WE Energies.
Fire Capt. Cory Barr was killed in the explosion that destroyed a bar he owned, five other businesses and a home on July 10. His widow, Abby Barr, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Firefighters Ryan Welch and Greg Pavlik filed personal injury lawsuits. Both were injured in the explosion.
The complaints point to numerous safety failures and negligence by the companies involved, which the lawsuits claim lead to the explosion.
The lawsuits claim that VC Tech and Bear Communications was negligent in one or more of the following respects:
- Struck a two inch natural gas main
-Failed to identify the location of the gas service line prior to engaging in excavation work and/or failed to pull a refreshed or current ticket from the Digger's Hotline, but instead relied upon a ticket pulled by another digging company
-Failed to check with USIC Locating Services to determine the exact location of the gas service line prior to performing the excavation work
-Operated excavating/ drilling equipment without knowing the exact location of the gas service line.
The lawsuits also claim USIC breached its duties of care in one or more of the following acts:
- Failed to inspect the subsurface of the subject property for underground utility lines
-Failed to identify underground utilities at the subsurface of the subject property
-Failed to accurately mark, flag, or otherwise identify the location of the subject gas service line
-Failed to notify the requestor of said location and marking service of the location of said gas service line(s)
-Failed to notify the Diggers hotline of the location and marking of the location of said gas service line
-Failed to notify WE Energies of the location and marking the location of said gas service line(s)
-Failed to warn the workers from VC TECH that the has lines were not marked at the subject intersection
-Failed to warn the Sun Prairie Fire Department firefighters, including plaintiff's decedent that the gas lines were not marked at the subject intersection
The lawsuits also claim WE Energies breached its duties of care in one or more of the following ways:
-Failed to respond to reports of a gas leak at the subject property immediately
-Failed to immediately shut off the flow of natural gas to the subject property
-Failed to coordinate accurate marking, flagging, or otherwise identifying the location of the subject gas service line
-Failed to appreciate the emergency nature of the situation
Abby Barr, Welch and Pavlik are seek economic and non-economic damages in the lawsuit due to the damages they faced as a result of the explosion.
In Abby Barr's complaint, the attorney writes she and her daughters suffered "profound loss of (Cory Barr's) love, affection, care, attention, companionship, comfort, guidance and protection." It goes on to say that Cory "suffered damages of a personal and pecuniary nature, including conscious pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, and medical expenses and had he lived he would have been entitled to bring this action and this action has survived his death."
All the companies involved have 45 days to respond to the lawsuit. News 3 attempted to contact all of the defendants listed in the case. Only WE Energies responded, saying the company will not comment on pending lawsuits.
These lawsuits were filed on the same day that police announced they will not be seeking criminal charges in the explosion. Sun Prairie Police Chief Pat Anhalt said the gas leak and explosion was caused by extreme miscommunication between the companies involved regarding marking and drilling in the area.
Investigators say the intersection was not marked properly, leading an employee with VC Tech to drill into a gas line causing a gas leak and explosion.
Officials also released new video of the explosion Thursday that shows first responders dodging debris when the explosion happened.