Lehigh Valley

Wrongful death suit filed in deadly gas explosion

Wrongful death suit filed in deadly gas explosion

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Attorneys representing the families of three of the five people killed in a natural gas explosion last year have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against UGI.

The suit, dated January 17, claims actions by the Reading-based company contributed to the deadly explosion and resulting inferno that destroyed or damaged dozens of homes in Allentown on Feb. 9, 2011.

The lawsuit was filed by Bethlehem-based Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader, LLC on behalf of the estates of Katherine Cruz; her 4-month-old son, Matthew Vega; and Vega's grandmother, Ofelia Ben.  Neighbors Beatrice and William Hall also died in the blast.

The suit claims UGI is to blame for the explosion because the company failed to follow through on a 1992 directive from the National Transportation Safety Board to replace aging gas pipes in the area.

According to the suit, the NTSB's directive came two years after a gas explosion about a mile away from the Feb. 9, 2011 blast.

The suit also claims UGI put a piece of wood under the pipeline in question, which caused the pipe to weaken and crack.

As a result of the alleged "negligence, carelessness and recklessness," attorneys representing the victims' families said UGI  is liable for damages under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act.

"UGI is in the process of reviewing the filing and has no comment on the legislation," said Dan Adamo, a spokesman for the company.

Relatives of the Halls, who also died in the explosion, reached a settlement with UGI in their wrongful death lawsuit.

Mark Hall, the victims' son, said the deal gave his parents "the justice which they earned and deserved."

Terms of the deal were kept confidential.

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