The family of an 82-year-old woman who was killed in a gas explosion in a senior citizen’s community in Aurora two years ago alleges in a lawsuit that Comcast, Xcel Energy and their subcontractors acted “negligently and ruthlessly” while drilling the ground, for laying fibers -optical cables.
The complaint was filed in Denver District Court on September 25 by the children of Carol Ross, the woman killed in the November 2018 explosion, and five other residents of the Heather Gardens community who were injured or financially affected by the explosion.
After a year-long investigation, no charges were brought against Comcast or its contractors ICS Communications and Bohrenworks. However, Aurora Fire Rescue’s investigation found that contractors struck a gas pipeline on November 16, 2018 while they were bored underground in the underground senior community. Investigators last year viewed the incident as an “unintentional human act or omission”.
But Ross’ family and the rest of the residents allege in the lawsuit that the fact that workers had previously met gas pipes digging through the senior community in the weeks leading up to the explosion showed that this was a pattern of negligence.
“Comcast and its excavation companies have carried out the excavation and drilling work negligently and ruthlessly from the start with no regard for safety, which led to numerous strikes in utility lines,” the complaint said.
In a statement, Comcast expressed its “deepest condolences” to the Ross family, adding that the company “has worked with the Heather Gardens community to provide support and we will continue to do so”.
In a statement, Xcel Energy said it was unable to comment on the details of the lawsuit but said: “A natural gas pipeline was hit by a third party digging in the area without the location (sic) required by state law. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission investigated the incident and our general response. You have not found any Xcel Energy violations. “
The Ross children and the other residents – Sandra and Paul Staley, Ronald and Gloria Achenbach, and Judy De Tar – also sued the Heather Gardens Association for selecting and overseeing the contractors hired to complete the project.
They demand unspecified economic and non-economic damage.
Three people were injured in the explosion, including a firefighter.
Sandra Staley lived down the block from Ross and was in her car when two explosions rocked the neighborhood. According to the lawsuit, Staley suffered severe hearing loss and anxiety after the explosion, as well as knee and shoulder injuries that she sustained after falling while searching the rubble in her home.
The other residents suffered economic losses because they were charged fees even though their homes were habitable, the complaint said.
The incident caused dozens of seniors to crawl into shelters after the explosion opened a chasm in the ground and shot debris several hundred meters away. The explosion sparked an uproar among residents, where people asked for answers after several leaks and errors during the fiber optic project.