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(SD)-Second Lawsuit Filed In Fatal Reservation Gas Explosion

By: John Axtell Posted at: 02/26/2018 01:20 PM
HOT SPRINGS, S.D. (AP) - A second lawsuit has been filed over an October 2016 propane gas explosion on the Pine Ridge reservation that destroyed a duplex and killed four people while injuring 3 others.
     The Rapid City Journal says the lawsuit filed in Oglala Lakota County Court on behalf of 13 plaintiffs names as the defendants Nebraska-based Westco - the Western Cooperative Company - and South Dakota-based C. Brunsch Inc., which does business as Lakota Plains Propane.
    Each company supplied propane to one unit of the duplex at the time of the explosion and are accused in the suit of negligence, failure to inspect and warn, strict liability, and breach of warranty. Neither firm has yet filed a response.

       The plaintiffs include the estates of 3 of the people killed in the blast - 23-year old Samantha Tobacco, 78-year old Raymond Owen Eagle Elk Sr; and 74-year old Oletha Ann Mousseau - as well as their survivors. They seek unspecified damages and a jury trial.
     A separate lawsuit was filed last June against the two companies by the mother of the fourth person who died, 19-yera old Elfreda Ann Takes War Bonnet, but the newspaper says a judge on Valentine's Day - the same day the second suit was filed - ruled that gas from Lakota Plains was responsible and dismissed Westco as a defendant.

     Judge Jeffrey Connolly wrote that a chemist retained by the plaintiff had determined gas from an uncapped interior propane line from the Lakota Plains tank had spread through a common crawl space under the duplex until something ignited it and caused the explosion.

      Connolly wrote there was no evidence gas from Westco had ever leaked before the explosion. He also dismissed a number of third-party defendants brought in by Westco and Lakota Plains because they were tribal entities or tribal members who fell under the jurisdiction of the Oglala Sioux tribal court and not state court.


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